photo of lab desktop

Biochemistry &
Molecular Biology

Students who major in biochemistry and molecular biology at Reed are trained in the experimental techniques used to probe the molecular and chemical mechanisms of biological processes. The strong laboratory and research focus of this major prepares students to enter careers or further study in a range of STEM fields, including medicine, biomedical research, and environmental sciences. Majors explore a variety of questions: How is information transmitted to direct cellular functions? What controls the expression of genes? How do biochemical processes lead to cellular differentiations? What are the molecular events that underlie aging or cancer?

Opportunities to travel to national conferences—the American Society for Microbiology, Microbe, Northwest Society for Developmental Biology, American Chemical Society, Murdock College Science Research, and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology—support student research by providing professional presentation and academic conference experience.

Graduates of this program develop not only an understanding of the fundamentals of biochemistry and molecular biology but also a strong sense of direction for future research. Reed is ranked number one in the nation in the percentage of STEM majors who go on to earn PhDs in STEM fields, according to a report conducted on behalf of the Council of Independent Colleges.

“The well-rounded training the program provides, coupled with the immense support from and expertise of the faculty, empowered me to pursue a truly interdisciplinary project for my senior thesis.” VICKI DENG ’20

Alumni profile

Constance Bailey ’10

Biochemistry and molecular biology
photo of Constance Bailey in lab

At Reed, Constance Bailey ’10 focused on elucidating the mechanism of some biosynthetic enzymes that installed an unusual functional group in an antibiotic. Her fascination with the biosynthesis of polyketide natural products grew during a summer internship between her junior and senior year at the Hans Knoell Institute in Germany; her study in this area culminated in her senior thesis, which she worked on with her thesis adviser, Arthur Glasfeld, Margret Geselbracht Professor of Chemistry.

Constance explored her interest in the dissemination of knowledge by serving as a peer tutor; participating in Reed’s Science Outreach Program, which provides inquiry-based science experiences to public school students in Portland; and teaching a Paideia class on Pokémon cards called “Gotta Catch ‘Em All!”

After graduation, Constance earned a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin, where she researched the biocatalytic applications of polyketide synthase enzymes. She was an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Professor Jay Keasling at UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, received an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, and is now assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where her lab focuses on applying natural product biosynthetic enzymes.

Download Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Flyer as a PDF

Special Programs

Students conduct field and summer research projects through the following grant opportunities:

  • Helen Stafford Summer Research Fellowship
  • Sandy River Gorge Field Study Award
  • Arch and Fran Diack Student Field Research Award
  • Reed College Science Research Fellowship

Faculty Grants, Awards, & Fellowships

These grants, fellowships, and awards won by faculty also provide collaborative research experiences for students:

  • Professor Derek Applewhite, National Institutes of Health, to study a gene linked to cleft palate
  • Professors Derek Applewhite and Anna Ritz, National Science Foundation, to investigate the signalling system that governs the shape of a cell
  • Professor Mir Bowring, American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund, on proton tunneling in organometallic hydrocarbon activation
  • Professor Kelly Chacón, National Science Foundation CAREER grant, to characterize Ter protein components in tellurium- resistant bacteria
  • Professor Sam Fey, National Science Foundation, to study freshwater phytoplankton and climate change
  • Professor Jay Mellies, National Science Foundation, to further investigate the potential of soil bacteria in the degration of PET plastic waste
  • Professor Anna Ritz, National Center for Women & Information Technology Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award, to bring computational thinking into student research and learning
  • Professor Erik Zornick, National Science Foundation, to explore the ways in which patterns of behavior are written into the neural circuits of the brain

What Do Alumni Do?

PhD Student in Molecular & Cell Biology
University of California, Berkeley
Gavin Dury ’22

SULI Research Intern
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Riyaz Ditter ’22

Research Assistant
Oregon Health & Science University
Ipsita Krishnamurthy ’20

PhD Student in Structural Biology
European Molecular Biology Laboratory
Dorothy Cheng ’20

Research Assistant
Wexner Medical Center, The Ohio State University
Ajit Elhance ’16

Research & Development Manager
KFK Seasoning
Christina S. Johnson ’15

Southwest Memorial Hospital
Jade Bryant ’08

Natural Resource Manager
Sonoma County Regional Parks
Hattie Brown ’02