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Biophysical Chemistry


The Biophysical Chemistry major is offered through the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry within the College of Science and Mathematics.

Admission and Progression Standards

Visit the Major Snapshots site to learn more about the admission and progression standards of this major.

Description of Major

JMU is the only university in the state of Virginia to offer the Biophysical Chemistry major. This rigorous major allows the exceptional student to focus on a solid foundation in chemistry with a study of biological systems, emphasizing hands-on learning, and leading to a career in biochemistry, chemistry, medicine, and interfaces with other areas such as materials science and engineering. Students take foundational lecture and laboratory courses in all sub-disciplines of chemistry – analytical, biochemistry, inorganic, organic, and physical – as well as biology, calculus and physics. The department also offers a major in chemistry and minors in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Materials Science.

More About the Field 

Biophysical chemistry is an interdisciplinary area where scientists analyze the physical properties of biological systems. Students who want to enter this profession can start by earning a bachelor's degree in biochemistry, biophysical chemistry or chemistry. Their training will include science courses such as general and organic chemistry, biochemistry, biophysical chemistry, physics and cell biology. Math courses in calculus are also featured, along with a strong lab component for learning about research and advanced instrumental techniques such as protein purification, and spectroscopic and theoretical studies of biological molecules.


An undergraduate program in Biophysical Chemistry provides a thorough preparation in the fundamentals that enable students to pursue a wide variety of specializations and sub-disciplines after undergraduate college. Traditionally there are five sub disciplines in Chemistry: analytical, inorganic, organic, biochemistry, and physical chemistry, all of which are represented at JMU. There are a variety of other specializations within, among, and outside of the traditional five areas such as: polymers, natural products, spectroscopy, materials science, computational chemistry, pharmaceutical chemistry, and chemical ecology. New areas are rapidly evolving and include research areas such as the development of DNA computers, novel biosensors and other novel biomaterials such as those used for drug delivery and the development of chips with functioning neurons.

Complementary Majors and Minors 

Cross–disciplinary programs and minors include: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Minor, Environmental Science, Materials Science, Mathematics, Physics and Pre-Professional Health programs (pre-dentistry, engineering, pre-forensic science, pre-medicine, pre-optometry, pre-pharmacy, pre-veterinary medicine).

Characteristics of Successful Students

In general, the successful Biophysical Chemistry major must be curious, have good mathematical abilities, and genuinely enjoy science. Often organizational skills, perseverance, judgment, and attitude are as important as intelligence. Participation in undergraduate research is imperative for aspiring biophysical chemists. Those who can communicate and collaborate as part of a team will also thrive.


Many graduates choose typical career paths associated with this major. However, some graduates choose nontraditional career fields that utilize skills and experiences developed during their years in college. Keep in mind, that some fields will require graduate study or further training. The listing below offers examples of possible career paths and is not meant to be comprehensive.

  • Analytical/Biophysical Chemist
  • Attorney
  • Bioanalytical Chemist
  • Biochemist-Protein Chemist
  • Biotechnologist
  • Cancer Researcher
  • Chemical Engineer
  • Crime Lab Analyst
  • Drug Developer/Researcher
  • Government Research Scientist
  • Pharmaceutical Researcher
  • Pharmacist
  • Physician
  • Research Associate
  • Staff Scientist
  • Science Writer

Who Employs Graduates?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many employers look for candidates with a doctoral degree (PhD) in biochemistry or a related field. Biophysical chemists can work in research positions for pharmaceutical companies or government agencies, as well as other private and public labs.

Internships and Experiential Opportunities 

JMU’s undergraduate research opportunities offer hands-on work with cutting –edge equipment that most schools reserve for doctoral students. Students receive individual attention from well-connected professors who care about guiding student progress. Since biophysical chemists will collaborate with scientists in other fields, it is important for students to develop communication and collaborative skills by choosing to work on team projects, volunteering for team-based community service and joining student clubs.

View our list of internship coordinators for each major.

Career Profiles

Biochemists and Biophysicists
Biophysicists and Biochemists 

Research Careers

Visit our Career Outcomes page to find out what alumni were doing right after graduating with this major.


Log in to Vault for access to detailed information on over 900 professions including employment prospects, estimated salaries, possible job titles, and top companies.


Visit our Research Careers page for even more career research tools.


© Career & Academic Planning, James Madison University,

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from JMU Career & Academic Planning. Content for each major has been written/reviewed by faculty in the respective department and is revised each year. Requests to update content can be submitted to

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