2000-01 Bulletin Entry for:

Bioorganic Chemistry


Graduate Program in Bioorganic Chemistry

The interdepartmental graduate program in bioorganic chemistry, leading to the degree of doctor of philosophy, is designed to give students a broad background in organic chemistry and in biochemistry, and to provide an appreciation for, and expertise in, the multiple disciplines that are currently being applied to problems at the interface of organic chemistry and biology. The program combines research opportunities in organic synthesis, organic reaction mechanisms, enzyme structure and function, molecular recognition, and structure determination of peptides and nucleic acids by X-ray crystallography and NMR spectroscopy. Thesis research will be carried out with two advisors, in accordance with the multidisciplinary aspects of bioorganic chemistry.

How to Be Admitted to the Graduate Program

The general requirements for admission to the Graduate School are listed in an earlier section of this Bulletin. Applicants are normally expected to have strong backgrounds in physical or biological science, with undergraduate concentrations in chemistry, biochemistry, biology, or pharmacology. Applications should include, in addition to three letters of reference, a personal statement giving reasons for choosing the field of bioorganic chemistry and indicating areas of special interest. Applicants are expected to take the Graduate Record Exam and are encouraged to visit Brandeis for an interview.

Faculty Advisory Committee

Lizbeth Hedstrom, Chair


James Hendrickson


Melissa Moore


Daniel Oprian


Gregory Petsko

(Biochemistry and Chemistry)

Thomas Pochapsky


Dagmar Ringe

(Biochemistry and Chemistry)

Barry Snider


Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Program of Study

Each doctoral candidate must successfully complete seven courses. All participants in the program will take BCHM 101a, 101b, CHEM 134b, and either 130a or 131a. Students must also take at least one course dealing with spectroscopy or crystallographic methods; choices include CHEM 132b, 229b, and 235b. An additional course will be chosen from the offerings of the chemistry and biochemistry departments. Students are also required to take CONT 300b (Ethical Practice in Health-Related Sciences). First-year students undertake six, six-week laboratory rotations in different laboratories in the program. In the course of their graduate career, students will present three seminars in the organic chemistry and biochemistry programs and one seminar in the bioorganic program. Thesis research is performed under the direction of two faculty members in different fields of expertise so that students will gain expertise in more than one discipline.

Financial Support

Graduate students generally receive financial support (tuition and stipend) throughout their participation in the graduate program.


Students participate as teaching assistants for two terms.

Language Requirement

Students are required to show proficiency in the use of a commonly used software package (e.g., QUANTA, MM2) and operating system (e.g., UNIX, VMS).

Residence Requirement

The minimum residence requirement for the Ph.D. degree is three years.

Qualifying Examinations

At the end of the first year, students will develop and defend an original proposition for a research problem in his or her area of interest. In addition, students must demonstrate general knowledge of bioorganic chemistry by passing a comprehensive examination. Students are expected to have completed this requirement by the end of the third year. This general knowledge outside the student's own field of specialization must be demonstrated to the satisfaction of a committee of three faculty members appointed by the Student Advisory Committee.

Dissertation and Thesis Defense

Each doctoral candidate will submit a dissertation describing his or her research and will defend it in a Final Oral Examination.

Courses of Instruction

(200 and above) Primarily for Graduate Students

BIOC 200a,b Bioorganic Seminar

Usually offered every year.


BIOC 303d Lab Rotations

Prerequisite: BCHM 101a and b. May be taken concurrently with BCHM 101a and b.

Ms. Hedstrom and Staff

CONT 300b Ethical Practice in Health-Related Sciences

Required of all first-year graduate students in health-related science programs. Not for credit.

Scientists are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of addressing ethical issues and values associated with scientific research. This course, taught by University faculty from several graduate disciplines, will cover major ethical issues germane to the broader scientific enterprise, including areas or applications from a number of fields of study. Lectures and relevant case studies will be complemented by two public lectures during the course. Usually offered every year.

Ms. Ringe

Cross-Listed Courses

BCHM 101a

Advanced Biochemistry I

BCHM 101b

Advanced Biochemistry II

BCHM 104b

Physical Chemistry of Macromolecules

BCHM 202b

Chemistry of Enzyme-Catalyzed Reactions

CHEM 111a

Computational Chemistry

CHEM 130a

Advanced Organic Chemistry: Structure

CHEM 131a

Advanced Organic Chemistry: Topics in Structure and Reactivity

CHEM 132b

Advanced Organic Chemistry: Spectroscopy

CHEM 134b

Advanced Organic Chemistry: Synthesis

CHEM 137b

The Chemistry of Organic Natural Products

CHEM 229b

Special Topics in Inorganic Chemistry: Introduction to X-ray Structure Determination

CHEM 235b

Advanced NMR Spectroscopy