Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Courses

Required Courses

BCHM 623: Macromolecules: Structure, Function and Interactions

Students participate in self-directed problem-solving exercises designed to provide familiarity with concepts and methodology in the analysis of enzyme catalysis, protein-nucleic acid interactions, and protein function and regulation. Emphasis is on independent investigation of information resources, development of a research plan, design of experimental approaches and evaluation of data. Offered every fall semester. (Required)

BCHM 691: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Journal Club

Students attend a weekly journal club on current topics in the literature. Students are required to select a scientific research paper in the area of enzymology, macromolecular interaction, cellular regulation, molecular biology or genetics and give an oral presentation of the scientific background and critical evaluation of the data and conclusions. Each student presents once during each semester. Students work with faculty advisers to master the ability to critically evaluate scientific publications. (Two semesters required)

BCHM 692: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Colloquium

Students attend a weekly seminar on topics in the literature of biochemistry and molecular biology. Students are required to select a scientific research paper outside the area of their dissertation topic, critically evaluate the data and conclusions, and present the information to faculty and students. Each student presents once during the semester. Students work with faculty advisers to master public presentation of scientific research and to develop the ability to critically evaluate scientific publications. (One semester required)

BCHM 624: Advanced Topics: Molecular Basis of Human Disease

This course is designed to study biochemical principles and concepts relevant to understanding the molecular bases of specific human diseases. This lecture-based course is offered every fall semester and meets three days per week. Assigned reading material supplement the lectures and include original papers, as well as reviews. This fall, the topics will deal primarily with defects in signal transduction (e.g. in cancer, diabetes and vision), protein folding and turnover (e.g. in lysosomal storage or aging-related diseases) and metabolic regulation (e.g. in diseases of amino acid metabolism, bleeding disorders and of the cardiovascular system). (Required)

BCHM 625: Preparation and Evaluation of Scientific Research Proposals

The ability to write a fundable grant proposal is one of the most important skills biomedical research scientists will need after graduation. A systematic strategy to address this skill is taught, practiced and evaluated in this one-semester course. Lectures include the basic organization of an NIH-style grant proposal, the purpose and importance of each aspect of the proposal, and an overview of the grant review process. These are followed by presentations of published papers selected by students in areas outside of their fields of dissertation research. The students then develop and prepare their own research proposals on this topic through weekly meetings. Near the end of the term, faculty and students critique the proposals in an NIH-style grant study section. The students then revise their proposals in light of the written critiques, and resubmit them for final evaluation and grading. Offered every spring semester. (Required)

Elective Courses

BCHM 628: Introduction to Bioinformatics and Genomics

This course introduces students to current practices in genomics and bioinformatics. Topics covered include computational techniques for finding information in biological sequence, genome and molecular structure databases. Students learn to use the publicly available tools used for identifying genes, modeling phylogenetic relationships, molecular structure and biochemical properties. This course also covers identification of informational patterns in DNA and approaches to linking genome data to information on gene function. Lectures are integrated with practical hands-on exercises designed to reinforce the concepts and to develop the necessary computer skills to effectively use the publicly available databases and tools. Offered every summer. (Elective)

Additional Elective Options

Advanced courses are accessible to SLU students in virtually any specialty area in the biomedical sciences that might interest them.

Students may choose to take additional courses outside the biochemistry and molecular biology department. Each of the graduate programs in the School of Medicine offers a wide variety of graduate courses in virology, signal transduction, pharmacology and a hands-on course in microscopy. Additionally, through a local university exchange program, students may also enroll in courses offered at nearby Washington University School of Medicine and the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Graduate Student Matriculation


During the first year after entry into the biochemistry and molecular biology program, students begin to organize their research proposals with the help of their permanent advisers. At the end of this year, each student prepares a written proposal outlining their dissertation research plans.

The preliminary examination for the Ph.D. degree includes approval of the written dissertation proposal by the student’s faculty advisery committee, followed by an oral defense of the proposal before the advisery committee.

Advancement to Candidacy

The second, third, and fourth years of the Ph.D. program are devoted mostly to research related to a student’s dissertation problem. Students usually advance to candidacy in the third year.

In the final year, the dissertation is written and defended in a departmental seminar, which constitutes the final oral examination for the Ph.D. degree. The completion of the program usually requires five years, including the first year in SLU’s graduate program in the biomedical sciences. The minimum residence requirement is three years.