Biochemistry: The Best of Both Worlds?

Biochemistry: The Best of Both Worlds?


In deciding on a major when applying to the College of Natural Sciences, there is so much to choose from. Psychology, Public Health, Neuroscience, Computer Science, Ecology, the list goes on. The possibilities are almost endless. But, as your eyes venture down the list, you’ll notice something troubling.


What is it, exactly, that necessitates a separate entity for the fusion of two majors that already exist? To any CNS applicant, seeing such a possibility is either a reason to stress or a reason to rejoice. (I’d like to say I experienced the latter.)

To better clarify the picture, here’s a general overview of the differences between a Biology, Chemistry, and Biochemistry degree to help guide a student in which to pick.


First Up: Biology

Biology is classified as the study of living organisms, and with a definition as broad and all-encompassing as that, it would make sense for its degree plan to harbor numerous possibilities. As of yet, there are over ten different options for a Biology major to choose from in pursuing a specific discipline within the subject:

  • BSA (Masterminded by our very own NSC!)

  • Ecology, Evolution & Behavior

  • Human Biology

  • Marine & Freshwater Science

  • Microbiology & Infectious Diseases

  • Cell & Molecular Biology

  • Neurobiology

  • Plant Biology

  • Teaching, Senior/Middle Grades, All Certifications

  • Biology Honors

  • Computational Biology

  • Biology

  • Genetics & Genomics

Looking at this, one (read: I) can hardly believe that Biology is generally viewed as the standard pre-med major. There is, after all, so much more to the subject than meets the eye. If anything, while an in-depth study of Microbiology or Molecular Biology is certainly pertinent to a hopeful med student, the many disciplines under the overarching Biology degree plan are also perfect for fostering careers in research.

The major takeaway, though? If you’re someone who’s not quite sure what they want to do but could find out given a number of options, the Biology degree plan is definitely for you. It may take you a while to figure out where you want to go when choosing your discipline, but that moment will come, and you’ll be happier in knowing that such a specific option actually exists.


On to #2: Chemistry  

In contrast to a Biology major, a Chemistry major is not exactly presented with a lot of options. Granted, there isn’t so much a need for these options as there is within the former subject, but we’ll list them here nonetheless:

  • BA

  • BSA

  • Chemistry

  • Computation

  • Teaching, Senior/Middle Grades, All Certifications

  • Chemistry Honors

In comparing Biology and Chemistry, it’s easy to see how one reflects on form while the other reflects on function. Chemistry is universal, no matter the given (non)biological context, and this makes it harder to section off into full-fledged degree plans.

On the flip side, though, this universal characteristic of the subject can offer a lot of solace to some students. To those who want stability and a consolidated academic experience (with no reason to stress over having too many options), a general Chemistry major is the perfect fit. A note of forewarning, though: you will live and breathe nothing but Chemistry by the end of your four years. Wink wink.



And Lastly: Biochemistry  

Of course, while Chemistry is certainly a more consolidated subject than Biology, out of three majors we’re discussing here today, Biochemistry is definitely as consolidated a subject as one can get, and it’s only one short of Chemistry on options:  

  • BA

  • BSA

  • Biochemistry

  • Computation

  • Biochemistry Honors

A number of students who initially choose to pursue a Biochemistry major do so under the assumption that they’re entering a “Best of Both Worlds” scenario. The reality, however, is anything but. It’s hard to say whether one subject dominates more than the other in creating this fusion. At the center of the subject is, of course, the study of Biology, but the means by which this Biology is studied is through an ever-focused Chemistry lens.

As a Biochemistry major myself, I think the beauty of such a major comes down to its interpretation. I am and always have been a Chemistry enthusiast, and in my view, a Biochemistry major is the perfect way to pursue that interest because it finally brings life to the many aspects of Biology that once bored me to death. On the other hand, for the Biology lovers, the Biochemistry experience follows along the crummy analogy of loving someone so much you want to get to know them as intricately as possible.

In the end, Biochemistry is Biology, no holds barred, ft. Chemistry to the tenth degree.

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