Joint Major in Chemistry and Biology

The disciplines of biology and chemistry are undergoing remarkable and converging transformations. In response to these new developments, Harvey Mudd College adopted in the Spring of 2004 a new Joint Major in Chemistry and Biology that will instruct students in the fundamentals of biology and chemistry that are necessary to pursue careers at the interface between the two disciplines. The Chemistry and Biology major will comprise several areas of study, including biochemistry, molecular biology, chemical biology, bioorganic chemistry, as well as other specialized areas at this interface.

Our objective is to enable students to think at the interface, to effortlessly move back and forth between chemistry and biology. They will have the background to appreciate the biological context of their research questions and they will have mastered the chemistry fundamentals that underlie the properties and reactions of biomolecules. These students will be able to make connections and have insights that are difficult to obtain without a thorough training in both chemistry and biology. We expect that the program in Chemistry and Biology will capture the imaginations of talented HMC students and reinforce their abilities to think across disciplines.

If you are interested in knowing more about this new opportunity you should contact Professor Catherine McFadden (Biology) at mcfadden@g.hmc.edu or Professor Hal Van Ryswyk (Chemistry) at vanryswyk@g.hmc.edu.

Requirements for the Degree

Required courses for the joint major are listed below. In addition, students must complete the Technical Core and the Humanities, Social Sciences, and the Arts requirements common to all HMC students.  Joint majors have two advisors, one from Chemistry and one from Biology.

Required Courses

  • Chemistry 51 – Physical Chemistry
  • Chemistry 53 – Physical Chemistry Laboratory
  • Chemistry 56 – Carbon Compounds
  • Chemistry 58 – Carbon Compounds Laboratory
  • Chemistry 103 – Analytical Chemistry
  • Chemistry 105 – Organic Chemistry
  • Chemistry 109 – Analytical Chemistry Laboratory
  • Chemistry 111 – Organic Chemistry Laboratory
  • Biology 54 – Biology Laboratory
  • Biology 111: Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory
  • Biology 113: Molecular Genetics
  • Biology 182/Chemistry 182 – Chemistry in Living Systems
  • Biology 184/Chemistry 184 – Methods in Biochemistry
  • Biology 189/Chemistry 189 – Topics in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

One pair selected from:

  • Chemistry 103 – Analytical Chemistry/Chemistry 109 – Analytical Chemistry Laboratory OR Chemistry 104 – Inorganic Chemistry/Chemistry 110 – Inorganic Laboratory

One course selected from:

  • Biology 101 – Comparative Physiology
  • Biology 108 – Ecology and Environmental Biology
  • Biology 109 – Evolutionary Biology

Five elective credits of upper-level Biology courses, to be selected by the student in consultation with her/his advisor.  Prior permission from the Department of Biology is required.

Colloquium/Seminar

Two semesters of Biology 191-192 and two semesters of Chemistry 199 where the same course is taken an entire year.

Senior Research (6 units)

Chemistry 151-152 or Biology 193-194 (Thesis will have two readers, a mentor from one department and a co-reader from the other department).

NOTE: In order to optimize their opportunities and to enable individual flexibility, students may request to count other courses not currently listed as Biology electives. These other courses might include new Biology courses developed at HMC, cross-listed HMC courses (e.g., topics in biological engineering), and appropriate courses offered by other Claremont Colleges. Prior approval, granted by the faculties of Biology and Chemistry, will be required to substitute electives.

Sample Pathway Through the Joint Major in Chemistry and Biology

First Year
Fall Units Spring Units
Chemistry 23S, 23E, 24 4 Chemistry 23D 1.5
Physics 23 1.5 Physics 24 and 28 4
Math 25B or 25G 3 Math 35 & 45 3
Computer Science 5 3 Biology 52 3
Writing 001 1.5 HSA 10 3
Elective 3 Elective 3
Total 16 Total 17.5
Sophomore Year
Fall Units Spring Units
Chemistry 51 3 Biology 54 1
Chemistry 53 2 Chemistry 56 3
Math 60 & 65 3 Chemistry 58 1
Physics 51 3 Engineering 59 3
HSA #1 3 HSA #2 3
Choice Lab 1 HSA #3 3
Total 15 Total 14
Junior Year
Fall Units Spring Units
Biology 111 2 Biology 182/Chemistry 182 3
Biology 113 3 Biology 184/Chemistry 184 1
Chemistry 105 3 Biology 101 or 108 (as an example) 3
Chemistry 111 1 Biology Lab (103 as an example) 2
HSA #4 3 HSA #6 3
HSA #5 3 HSA #7 3
Colloquium or Seminar 0.5 Colloquium or Seminar 0.5
Total 15.5 Total 15.5
Senior Year
Fall Units Spring Units
Senior Research 3 Senior Research 3
Biology 189/Chemistry 189 3 Biology elective 3
Chemistry 103 3 HSA #9 3
Chemistry 109 1 HSA #10 3
Elective 3 Elective 3
HSA #8 3 Seminar or Colloquium 0.5
Seminar or Colloquium 0.5 Elective 2
Total 16.5 Total 17.5