Creighton to Offer New Biochemistry Major
Creighton to Offer New Biochemistry Major

The early going looks promising to Juliane Strauss-Soukup, PhD, professor in Creighton University’s Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Though it’s still early in the 2020 recruiting cycle, almost 250 prospective students have indicated an interest in the University’s new biochemistry major. The first classes specifically tailored to the new major will be offered in the fall of 2020, with current sophomores and freshmen (students planning to graduate in May 2022 or 2023) also able to declare biochemistry as a major.

Biochemists study the chemical and physical properties of living things and of biological processes, and typically work in industry and academia, advancing the understanding of processes fundamental to life. Biochemistry is foundational to further graduate studies in the field and many other careers in the health sciences including medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy.

The job market for biochemists is expected to continue to grow over the next 10 years, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, and the median salary in 2018 was over $93,000.

Strauss-Soukup says a major that focuses more on the “bio” aspect of biochemistry had long been sought by students, and Creighton’s new bachelor’s degree in biochemistry addresses this need.

“Right now, the biochemistry track within our chemistry major is chemistry heavy,” Strauss-Soukup says. “While that can be very appropriate for some, this new degree includes more courses in biology and advanced areas of biochemistry.”

David Dobberpuhl, PhD, chair of Creighton’s Department of Chemistry, describes a science “continuum” along which some students gravitate toward the mathematics inherent in chemistry while others are drawn to a deeper understanding of biological molecular interactions.

The new biochemistry degree is a “tweener,” he says, bridging biology and chemistry.

An eagerness to understand more profoundly the biological aspects of biochemistry finds favor with Strauss-Soukup, who says such learning impacts all of life.

“Every disease out there is a biochemical problem,” she says. “Something is not working right, so it’s important for students to learn about these pathways and processes and about the research being done so ultimately biochemistry can help improve human health & therefore society.”

Following the biochemistry track “was among the smartest decisions I made during my time at Creighton,” says Matt Abrahms, BSChm’16, who now works for Agilent Technologies as an application expert for laboratory compliance for the Americas.

“I attribute a large amount of my professional success to the experiences that I had with Creighton’s chemistry program and the sheer amount of hands-on laboratory exposure it offers.”

Katherine Jones, BSChm’16, says the biochemistry track within her chemistry degree proved an invaluable aid on a career track that took her to the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, and helped establish her as a PhD candidate in chemistry at the University of Minnesota.

“Now, I get to do exactly what I wanted to do: use my knowledge of organic chemistry to design and synthesize molecules for biological applications,” she says.

Industry internships will be available to biochemistry majors, Strauss-Soukup says, although she believes Creighton’s on-campus research opportunities are a better option.

Dobberpuhl agrees.  “Research is the best form of internship,” he says. “I enjoyed my internship working in GNC’s quality control laboratories, testing vitamins, mineral supplements and other products. However, you’re essentially following procedures developed and optimized by others.

“Research discovers new knowledge, which I think is the finest form of internship.”

And if a student intends to continue along the academic track, Strauss-Soukup says a biochemistry degree is a prized possession and will excellently prepare students for graduate school.

“In addition, every class required by undergrads interested in pursuing medicine can be taken in this new major,” she says. “Dental school wants you to have biochemistry. Pharmacy, too. Any of the health sciences.”

“If you want to get a PhD in immunology, you have to know biochemistry. If you want a PhD in neuroscience, you have to know biochemistry. Biochemistry is the foundation for all other biological and biochemical sciences, including all the health sciences.