Interdisciplinarity is the hallmark of the biological sciences in the 21st century. In addition to a foundation in chemistry and biology, the biochemistry major provides students with an understanding of the central elements of biochemistry and molecular biology. The biochemistry program curriculum is designed to prepare the student for graduate school, medical school, or other professional programs of study. In addition, graduates should be highly competitive in the chemical, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology marketplace.

Modern interdisciplinary challenges in the biological and chemical sciences require that the student be trained in a broad background of chemistry, biophysics, genetics and molecular biology. The Biochemistry major at AMU aims to provide a rigorous and modern introduction to the chemical and biochemical sciences in an environment that incorporates classroom teaching, class-associated lab experiences, an introduction to the scientific literature and an emphasis on independent research. Together, these strategies and opportunities foster the development of independent thinking and complex problem solving skills, along with the technical proficiency characteristic of the effective scientist in the biochemical sciences.

Explore the Biochemistry Program

Chemistry and biology have long been considered separate disciplines, each applying its own technology and method to solve problems within their respective fields. The boundaries between the chemical and biological sciences are rapidly dissolving as scientists increasingly use chemical tools and concepts to explore mechanism, structure and function in complex biological systems at the biochemical, genetic and organismal level. Interdisciplinary approaches toward tackling important biological problems are the hallmark of science in the 21st century.

Along with these interdisciplinary challenges comes need to expose the student and future scientist to a broad background in chemistry, biophysics, genetics and molecular biology. The Biochemistry major at AMU will provide this rigorous and modern introduction to the chemical and biochemical sciences in an environment that incorporates both classroom teaching and independent research. Together, these pedagogical strategies foster the development of independent thinking skills, complex problem solving skills, and the technical skills characteristic of the effective scientist.

Broadly, our goal is to provide pre-professional training to those interested in pursuing graduate studies or embarking on a career in the biological, chemical or medical sciences. Graduates should be highly competitive in the chemical, pharmaceutical and biotechnology marketplace. In this regard, we can point to our already strong record in placing Biology graduates in top-tier graduate, medical school, dental school programs and industry/ academic research positions. While this is an important practical goal, we also recognize that the natural and chemical sciences are not simply technological disciplines, but are truly liberal arts with which we seek to know truth for its own sake. Fostering a proper appreciation of the role the sciences play in our understanding the world around us, while providing students with the practical skills for a future career is at the heart of our educational philosophy.

The program faculty are dedicated teachers and scholars, each with their own independent research programs in areas such as mechanistic enzymology, drug discovery and design, the development of artificial protein receptors, and vesicle transport. Serious students are provided with the opportunity to participate in these research efforts alongside the faculty mentor. The department is well equipped to handle the demanding needs of the teaching and research labs. Students are exposed to hands-on experience of leading edge techniques in the biochemical sciences such as nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, and capillary gas chromatography as well as modern methods in areas like protein purification, molecular biology, organic synthesis and computer modeling.

Please browse our website and see what opportunities are available to you in the Biochemistry major at Ave Maria University. If you have any questions concerning our program, or would like to visit our labs, feel free to contact us to schedule an appointment.

James A. Peliska, Ph.D.
Department Chair of Chemistry and Physics

In addition to the core curriculum, biochemistry majors take the following courses

BIOL 211 Biology I with Lab

BIOL 212 Biology II with Lab

CHEM 125 General Chemistry I with Lab

CHEM 126 General Chemistry II with Lab

CHEM 221 Organic Chemistry I with Lab

CHEM 222 Organic Chemistry II with Lab

PHYS 221 University Physics I: Mechanics with Lab

PHYS 222 University Physics II: Materials with Lab

BIOL 303 Genetics with Lab

BCHM 305 Biochemistry I with Lab

BCHM 306 Biochemistry II with Lab

Elective Options

BIOL 305 Molecular Biology with Lab

BCHM 415 Advanced Topics in Biochemistry

Possible Topics Include:

Enzyme Kinetics and Mechanism

Biochemistry of Cancer

Biochemistry of Viral Action

Protein Trafficking

Bio-Organic Chemistry

And several other options

BCHM 497 Directed Research

See the Academic Catalog for course descriptions


BIOL 211 Biology I – Cellular and Molecular Biology – An introduction to the study of living systems illustrated by examples drawn from cell biology, biochemistry, genetics, microbiology, neurology and developmental biology. (with lab) (4 cr.)

BIOL 212
Biology II – Organismal and Population Biology – Introduction to the study of organisms emphasizing morphology and physiology, behavior, ecology, and evolution of whole organisms and populations. (with lab) (4 cr.)

BIOL 303 Genetics – Study of the principles of heredity in animals and plants, including the contemporary understanding of genes and gene mechanisms. Laboratory exercises will be used to elucidate genetic principles. (with lab) Prerequisites: BIOL 211, BIOL 212 (4 cr.)

BIOL 305 Molecular Biology – Designed to explore the biology and molecular regulation of gene expression and other cell functions. Other topics include the nature, control, recombination and rearrangement of genes, gene manipulation, and recombinant DNA techniques.(with lab) Prerequisites: BIOL 211, BIOL 212 Recommended: CHEM 211, 212 (4 cr.)


CHEM 211 General Chemistry I – A study of the basic principles of chemistry, with an emphasis on the laws of chemical combination, descriptive inorganic chemistry, thermochemistry, the gas, liquid, and solid states of matter, the periodic law, atomic structure and chemical bonding, and the nature of intermolecular forces. (with lab) (4 cr.) Prerequisite: MATH 150 or higher

CHEM 212 General Chemistry II – A continuation of General Chemistry I with emphasis on kinetics, chemical equilibria involving gases, weak acids and bases, and slightly soluble solids, free energy changes, electrochemistry, transition metal chemistry. (with lab) (4 cr.) Prerequisite: CHEM 211

CHEM 311 Organic Chemistry I – A detailed study of organic compounds, their synthesis and reactions. An introduction to modern methods of analysis and identification is included. (with lab) (4 cr.) Prerequisite: CHEM 211, CHEM 212

CHEM 312 Organic Chemistry II – A continuation of Organic Chemistry I (with lab) (4 cr.) Prerequisites: CHEM 211, CHEM 212, CHEM 311


BICM 405 Biochemistry I – A study of proteins, enzymes, carbohydrates, metabolism, signaling pathways, transcription, translation, replication, lipids and membranes with an emphasis on the relationship of structure and function. (4 cr.) Prerequisites: BIOL 211, 212, CHEM 211, 212, 311, 312; PHYS 211, 212, MATH 151

BICM 406 Biochemistry II (Biophysical Chemistry)– This course discusses the concepts of energy, enthalpy, entropy, free energy, thermodynamics, equilibrium, calorimetry and molecular spectroscopy. There is a focus on the application of physical chemistry concepts and mathematics to biological systems. (4 cr.) Prerequisites: BIOL 211, 212; BICH 405, CHEM 211, 212, 311, 312; PHYS 211, 212, MATH 151

BICM 415 Advanced Topics in Biochemistry – These unique courses consist of 2 credit modules, each consisting of 1/2 semester. This format facilitates the student’s exposure to a broad range of topics in modern biochemistry and allows for flexibility in elective course selection.
Possible topics include:
Transcription Control of Gene Expression
Biochemistry of Cancer
Organic Mechanisms of Drug Action
Advanced Structural Biology
Biochemistry of Viral Action
Advanced Biochemical Techniques (lab)
Principles of Pharmacology and Pharmacokinetics
Enzyme Kinetics and Mechanism
Protein Trafficking
Natural Products Biochemistry
Bio-organic Chemistry

BICM 497 Directed Research – Students will be instructed in laboratory and/or library research on a project currently being studied by one or more faculty members. Prerequisite: Faculty approval. (4 cr.)


PHYS 221 University Physics I (Mechanics) Mechanics is foundational to physics. Topics include: rectilinear and rotational motions of particles and rigid bodies, energy methods, conservation laws, and Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation. Pre-requisites: MTH 151 (4 Cr.)

PHYS 222 University Physics II (Materials) – Topics include: materials, oscillations, travelling and standing waves, interference and diffraction, geometric optics, and the Laws of Thermodynamics. The primary objectives of this course are for you to refine your understanding of classical mechanics in the particular and important cases of mechanical oscillations and waves, and for you to study and apply the classical Laws of Thermodynamics. This course includes a laboratory component which is intended to present scientific experimentation as a subject in its own right. Pre-requisites: PHY 221 and MTH 250 (4 Cr.)

The following major equipment is available for research and teaching activities.


Cary Eclipse fluorescence spectrophotometer with 96-well plate reader accessory

Cary 50 UV-Vis spectrophotometer with stopped-flow module accessory

Perkin Elmer RX-I Infrared spectrophotometer

Anasazi FT-NMR spectrometer

Proton and carbon probes

GE Storm Fluorescent Gel Imager and Phosphorimager

Beckman LS 6000SC Liquid Scintillation Counter

Molecular Biology

Syngene GeneFlash and GeneGnome gel documentation stations

UVP Ultraviolet Crosslinker and blot hybridization incubator

New Brunswick Inova and G25 Incubator/shakers

PCR thermocycler (several)

Revco ultra-cold freezer

Motic high-resolution dissecting scopes

VanGuard 1400FL Series fluorescent microscope with high resolution camera

Savant DNA Speedvac

Plant grow carts


Sorvall RC5C PLUS superspeed refrigerated centrifuge

Beckman L8-80M ultracentrifuge


Varian CP-3800 capillary gas chromatograph

HP-Agilent GC-Mass Spectrometer ***NEW 9/09***

BioRad Biologic chromatography system

Computer Resources

Macintosh computer lab with G5 server

Wavefunction Spartan 06 software for molecular mechanics and quantum chemical modeling

Chemical Abstracts SciFinder Scholar Database access with structure search module

Building Facilities

Dark room

Cold room

Media prep room

Amsco Renaissance Series autoclave

Fully equipped research-dedicated labs for biological and chemical research

James A. Peliska, Ph.D.

Chair of the Chemistry & Physics Department, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
 Education: B.S. (Chemistry and Biology) Northland College, Ashland, Wisconsin; Ph.D. (Organic Chemistry) University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin.
Office: Henkels 3052
Office Phone: (239) 280-1605
Fax: (239) 280-1637

Tony Barbosa, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Education: B.S. Chemistry, Providence College; M.S. Organic Chemistry, University of Rochester; Ph.D. Organic Chemistry, University of Rochester
Office: Henkels 3050
Office Phone: (239) 280-1584
Fax: (239) 280-1637

Mthabisi Moyo, a 2011 AMU graduate in Biology and Mathematics and a minor in Chemistry is pursuing his Ph.D at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Makandiwana Shoniwa, a 2011 AMU graduate in Biology with a minor in Chemistry is pursuing her Ph.D in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at SUNY Upstate Medical University.

Michael Assibey, a 2011 AMU graduate in Biology is attending the Florida Institute of Technology as a graduate student in Biotechnology (Molecular Biology).

Matthew Mullally, a 2011 biology graduate is attending the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry.

Josephine Vowels, a 2011 graduate in Biology is attending law school at the Catholic University of America.

Andrew Mullally, a 2009 AMU graduate with a major in Biology and a minor in chemistry, is currently attending the Michigan State College of Human Medicine MD program. Andrew was involved in research in the Peliska lab.

Anthony Jay, a 2009 AMU graduate with a major in Biology and a minor in chemistry, will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Biochemistry at Boston University. Anthony was involved in research in the Peliska lab.

Dan Ade, a 2009 AMU graduate in Biology and a minor in chemistry will be attending Indiana School of Dentistry in the fall. Dan participated in research in the Peliska lab.

Su Li Lee, a 2006 graduate in Biology & Philosophy with a minor in Chemistry, was recently awarded her second Masters degree in Psychology. Su Li holds a Masters degree in Experimental Psychology from the University of Sussex and a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology from the Institute for the Psychological Sciences in Washington, D.C. Su Li is continuing her work towards a Doctoral degree at the IPS.

Do you still have questions about the Biochemistry program at Ave Maria University?

Please feel free to send us a comment or question. We will respond as soon as possible.

Send your comments and questions to:

Dr. James A. Peliska

In your correspondence, please provide your contact information.

Thank you for your interest in the Department of Biology and Chemistry at AMU.