BSc in Biochemistry

renwick dobson in biochemistry lab

The interface between Biology and Chemistry is the focus of some of the world’s most fascinating research, and is arguably having the greatest impact on our lives. This is Biochemistry – understanding how cells work at the molecular level.

The Biochemistry major is taught as a collaboration between Chemistry and Biological Sciences.

Biochemistry uses the techniques of Chemistry, Physics and Molecular Biology to probe the mysteries of Biology. It provides basic insight into biological processes such as enzyme action, drug action, genetic engineering, photosynthesis, cancer and heart disease. Some knowledge of Biochemistry is essential for any student majoring in Biological Sciences and many areas of Chemistry.

Our teaching staff have a unique blend of skills and expertise. The result is an exciting undergraduate curriculum and a vibrant research environment.

Biochemistry can lead to careers in a diverse range of fields. Our graduates have been employed in medical science, forensic science, environmental science, food and drink manufacturing, agriculture, technology and teaching.

Within the broad field of Biochemistry, research interests at UC focus on the following key areas:

  • Intermediary metabolism: studies of the integration of reactions in living cells; how cells make and use energy; biosynthesis of proteins; DNA and RNA; and cellular control mechanisms
  • The molecular basis for biological phenomena: studies of molecular biology; gene expression and control; hormones and physiological phenomena
  • The nature of enzyme-catalysed reactions
  • Ultrastructure: studies of the coordination of the structure and function of cells, their organelles and their proteins
  • The structure of biopolymers: studies of the structure of proteins, DNA, RNA and cell walls
  • Applied biochemistry: studies of immobilised enzymes; biochemical engineering and food biochemistry
  • Free radical biochemistry
  • Enzyme inhibition and drug design
  • Natural products chemistry and drug discovery

For a full overview of research, see Chemistry research and Biological Sciences research.

Recent thesis topics in Biochemistry:

  • Biochemistry of DNA transport
  • Design of novel antimicrobial agents
  • Bacteria and the mushroom industry
  • Role of the macrophage antioxidant 7,8 dihydroneterin in inflammation
  • Characterisation of free radical mediated cell damage
  • Testing of dietary antioxidants
  • Enzymatic lipid oxidation as a mechanism of heart disease
  • Antioxidant levels in marine organisms
  • Isolation of bioactive marine natural products
  • Therapeutically relevant protease inhibitors
  • Origins of metabolism
  • Molecular cloning of plant genes and genetic engineering
  • Ca2+ and the induction of cell polarity 
  • Pro-drugs for anti-cancer chemotherapy
  • Effect of culture condition on fungal secondary metabolism
  • Regulation of pituitary hormone release
  • Membrane transport proteins
  • The design of new pharmaceuticals
  • Protein structure and function
  • Bachelor of Science with Honours - Students complete a fourth year of study comprising four 400-level papers and a research project.
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Science - Students complete a fourth year of study comprising four 400-level papers.
  • Master of Science - Students complete a fourth year of study comprising four 400-level papers (part I), followed by a one-year research project (part II), written up as a thesis.
  • Doctor of Philosophy - Students complete a three-year research project written up as a thesis. Entry is after successful completion of either BSc(Hons) or an MSc.

For more information on postgraduate study see our department's postgraduate page.

See the degree regulations for the BSc or view details of individual courses below.

Year 1


  • BIOL 111 Cellular Biology and Biochemistry
  • CHEM 112 Structure and Reactivity in Chemistry and Biochemistry

Strongly Recommended 

 *Students who have not completed >13 credits in NCEA Level 3 Chemistry take CHEM 114 before enrolling in CHEM 111 and CHEM 112

Year 2


And either:



Year 3


  • BCHM 301 Biochemistry 3 (equiv BIOL 331)
  • BCHM 302 Biological Chemistry
  • BCHM 381 Biochemical Techniques (for those intending to study to 4th year or beyond)


  • BIOL 333 Molecular Genetics
  • BIOL 313 Advanced Molecular and Industrial Microbiology
  • CHEM 322 Organic Chemistry
  • CHEM 321 Advanced Inorganic Chemistry: From Structure to Function
  • CHEM 381 Advanced Synthetic Techniques


For advice on studying Biochemistry:

Renwick Dobson

Associate Professor
Biological Sciences 620
Internal Phone: 95145

Anna Chapman

Senior Academic Advisor
Okeover 110
Internal Phone: 94117

Biochemistry academics

Andy Pratt

Rutherford 836
Internal Phone: 95922

Richard Hartshorn

Associate Head of School
Physics & Astronomy
Rutherford 539
Internal Phone: 95157

Ashley Garrill

Associate Professor
Biological Sciences 634
Internal Phone: 95173

Steven Gieseg

Associate Professor
Free Radical Biochemistry
Biological Sciences 437
Internal Phone: 95599

Jack Heinemann

Biological Sciences 534
Internal Phone: 95597

Ian Shaw

Rutherford Rm 746
Internal Phone: 94302

Emily Parker

Professor, Ferrier Research Institute, Victoria University of Wellington

Grant Pearce

Senior Lecturer
Biological Sciences 624
Internal Phone: 95199