Biochemistry Major Requirements

A grade of C- or better must be earned and revealed on your transcript for any course -- including the first semester -- to be counted towards the major or concentration requirements. The grade of P is not acceptable, but a course that was taken P/D/F may be counted if and only if the P is uncovered by the Registrar's deadline. (Please note that an exception is made for major courses taken in Spring 2020, when all courses were Pass-Fail).

Any exceptions must be approved in advance by an Advisor and you must receive an email notification of that approval.  

Students may substitute Barnard College courses only with prior permission from an Advisor.

If you are planning to study abroad, please meet with your Advisor before you go. You'll need prior approval for any major courses that you take abroad.

NOTE: Numbering does not reflect difficulty but rather whether UGs & graduate students have different requirements:
3000 – Only UGs register
4000 – UGs and graduate students perform the same
5000 – Only graduate students register, requires additional work beyond the 3000 course; sometimes the 3000 (UGs) & 5000 (Grad.) are different versions of the same course, i.e. same time, location and lectures

I. Required Biology Courses

  1. Both terms of the introductory biology sequence (Barnard courses cannot be used for Intro Bio):
    • UN2005 - Introductory Biology I: Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
    • UN2006 - Introductory Biology II: Cell Biology, Developmental & Physiology
  2. Both of these Biology-Chemistry courses:
    • UN3501/GU4501 - Biochemistry or UN3300 (Biochemistry)
    • UN3512/GU4512 - Molecular Biology

II. Required Chemistry Courses

  1. One of these three sequences of courses:
    • UN1403 - UN1404 General chemistry I and II and UN2443 - UN2444 Organic chemistry I and II
    • UN1604 - Second Semester General Chemistry (Intensive) and UN2443 - UN2444 Organic chemistry I and II
    • UN2045 - UN2046 Intensive organic chemistry
  2. The following physical chemistry courses:
    • UN3079 - UN3080 - Physical chemistry I and II

III. Required Laboratory Courses

  1. One general chemistry lab:
    • UN1500 General Chemistry Laboratory or UN1507 Intensive General Chemistry Lab
  2. One organic chemistry lab:
    • UN2495 - UN2496 Organic Chemistry Laboratory or UN2545 Intensive Organic Chemistry Lab
  3. One of these upper-level biology labs:
    • UN3058 - Project laboratory in microbiology
    • UN3052 - Project laboratory in molecular genetics
    • UN3500 - Independent Research Project, taken for at least 4 points
  4. At least one of these upper-level chemistry or biology labs:
    • Chemistry UN3546 - Advanced organic chemistry lab
    • Chemistry UN3085 or UN3086 - Physical and analytical chemistry lab I and II
    • Chemistry UN3098 - Supervised Independent Research
    • Biology UN3500 - Independent Research Project, taken for at least 4 points**
    • An advanced Bio lab (UN3058 or UN3052). The same biology lab cannot be used to fulfill both requirements 3 & 4 -- you must take two different ones to fulfill both requirements.
    • UN2501 - Contemporary biology laboratory plus one of the following
      • UN3040 - Lab in Molecular Biology (not currently offered)
      • A 3 pt. Barnard lab course, with permission from Bio advisor

**You can take only one term of UN3500, but you usually learn much more if you work in the same lab for a more extended period. If you plan to do lab research, we recommend two terms of UN3500 (4 pts each) or one term + a summer of research in the same laboratory. (Even if only one term is applied toward the major.)  SURF may be used in lieu of the lab requirement only if combined with one semester of UN3500; summer lab work under other auspices may not be substituted for SURF. Paid laboratory work may not be substituted for any of these requirements.

Note: Students who satisfactorily complete any of the following combination are considered to have completed all their upper-level lab requirements (3 & 4 above)- 

  • Two semesters of UN3500 for 8 credits total in the same lab.
  • One semester of UN3500 for a minimum of 3 credits plus Surf in the same lab.
  • One semester of UN3500 for a minimum of 4 credits plus one Project lab.
  • One Project lab plus Surf.
  • Two Project labs.


IV. Required Physics and Math Courses

  1. Two terms of Physics are required
    • Physics UN1201 - UN1202 General Physics fulfills the requirement.
      The 1400 sequence is recommended if you plan to take 3 terms of physics.
      (Higher numbered sequences are fine if you have the background)
  2. Mathematics:
    • 2 Semesters of Calculus or Honors Math. If you have AP credit and complete one term of advanced Calculus at Columbia (Calculus II or higher), this requirement is fulfilled.

V. Additional Course Requirements (Any three of these)

  1. Math courses:
    • ODE (Ordinary differential equations) or One additional term of Calculus or Honors Math beyond that used to fulfill the previous Math requirement (IV-2).
    • For students with AP credit, A 4 or 5 in Calculus A/B in high school or a 4 in B/C calculus fulfills the requirement of one term of calculus toward the biology major. A score of 5 in B/C calculus fulfills the requirement of one year of calculus toward the biology major. (Students with these scores are exempt from some bio major requirements, as explained above, but will not receive AP credit if they take Calculus 1, or if they take no calculus at Columbia.) For more details, see the mathematics department web site.
    • NOTE: A single calculus course, no matter how advanced, does not fulfill both requirements IV-2 and V-1.
  2. Chemistry courses:
  • GU4071 Inorganic chemistry (strongly recommended)
  • UN4147 Advanced organic chemistry
  • UN4102 Chemistry for the Brain
  1. Biology courses: Any Biology lecture course at the 3000/4000 level for 3 or more points. The following are recommended. Prior approval is required for any course not on this list. 
    • UN3004 Neurobiology I: Cellular & Molecular Neurobiology
    • UN3005 Neurobiology II: Development & Systems
    • UN3006 Physiology
    • UN3019 - Brain Evolution
    • UN3025 - Neurogenetics
    • UN3031 - Genetics
    • UN3799/GU4799 - Readings Molecular Biology of Cancer
    • UN3034/GU4034 - Biotechnology
    • UN3022 Developmental Biology
    • UN3041 Cell Biology
    • UN3073 Cellular and Molecular Immunology
    • UN3193/GU4193 - Stem Cell Biol & Applications
    • UN3310/GU4310 Virology
    • UN3320 - Regulation of Behaviors for Survival
    • UN3404 - Antimicrobial Resistance
    • UN3560 Evolutionary Biology in the Genomic Era
    • GU4002 Macromolecular Structure and Interactions
    • GU4011 Neural Syst: Circuits in the Brain
    • GU4036 - Transformative Concepts in Systems Biology
    • GU4080 - Ancient and Modern RNA Worlds
    • GU4082 Theoretical Foundations and Applications of Biophysical Methods
    • GU4300 Drugs and Disease
    • BIOC GU4323 Biophysical Chemisty I
    • BIOC GU4324 Biophysical Chemistry II
    • GU4400 Computational Genomics
    • GU4510 Genomics of Gene Regulation
    • GU4560 Evolutionary Biology in the Genomic Era
    • GU4008 Advanced Seminar in Neurobiology
    • GU4035 Seminar in Epigenetics 
    • GU4075 Biology at Physical Extremes
    • GU4290 - Biological Microscopy

Note: SCNC & HPSC courses do not count towards the Major even if listed under Biology courses on Bio web site. BIOT courses will not be counted towards the Major.


VI. Recommended Seminar Courses (not required)

  1. Biology UN1908 - First-year seminar in modern biology - For first year students only
  2. Chemistry UN2408

For transfer students, at least 4 biology or biochemistry courses and at least 18 credits of the total (biology, biochemistry, math, physics and chemistry) must be taken at Columbia. Barnard courses may not be substituted for the required Columbia courses without advance permission from the advisor.

Business Office

Department of Biological Sciences
500 Fairchild Center
Mail Code 2401
Columbia University
1212 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10027

Academic Office

Department of Biological Sciences
600 Fairchild Center
Mail Code 2402
Columbia University
1212 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10027
[email protected]
212 854-4581