The applications of biochemistry in agriculture are currently widespread and growing. Studies of nitrogen fixation, photosynthetic efficiency, uses of recombinant DNA, animal and human nutrition and health, genomics and proteomics, and the environmental impact of agricultural chemicals are examples of the wide variety of topics in which biochemistry is seen as an increasingly important component.
The Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology at Iowa State University is part of both the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The Department has faculty in both colleges, and some faculty hold joint appointments in other College of Agriculture and Life Sciences departments. Preparation of undergraduates for biochemically oriented careers in agriculture is one of the Department’s important responsibilities. The Agricultural Biochemistry major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences provides a means for preparing students for entry into careers requiring a thorough understanding of biochemistry and molecular biology.
The Curriculum in Agricultural Biochemistry was established in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in the fall of 1978. The program is designed to accommodate students planning careers in agriculture in which a strong biological, physical, and/or mathematical science component is important and to prepare the students for graduate study or employment in a variety of agricultural disciplines. The curriculum also serves as a pre-professional program for those intending to enter veterinary and human medicine.
It is our expectation that the curriculum in Agricultural Biochemistry will attract students who have strong interests and abilities in the physical and biological sciences and who desire to remain in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Such students might otherwise pursue science programs outside of the College, perhaps losing contact with agriculture in the process or might alternatively choose majors in agriculture less satisfying to their scientific interests. The Agricultural Biochemistry major provides suitable options for these students. In addition to the major itself, combining agricultural biochemistry with one of several agricultural disciplines as a double major is feasible.
The curriculum for the Agricultural Biochemistry major is designed to emphasize chemistry, physics, and mathematics so that students acquire a strong base in the scientific fundamentals of the biological and agricultural sciences. These fundamental courses are emphasized during the first two years of study so that students are well prepared for advanced biochemistry, biological science, and agricultural courses. The responsibility of the advisor is to assist the student in (1) matching the type of courses to the student’s professional interests, (2) meeting requirements for the B.S. degree in a timely fashion, and (3) obtaining employment or post-graduate training.
Graduates of the Agricultural Biochemistry curriculum will find employment or continue post-graduate studies in a variety of disciplines in agricultural sciences and veterinary and human medicine. In fact, about 70% of the graduates of the curriculum (136 total students, as of January 2012) have gone on for post-graduate study. During the tenure of the curriculum, about 10% of the graduates have gone directly into employment in industry, about 25% have become employed as research and teaching support staff members in a university or governmental laboratory, about 35% have entered or completed graduate school, about 15% have entered or completed medical school, one person entered law school, and several others (5) left the curriculum early after meeting the requirements of the pre-veterinary medicine curriculum and became students of veterinary medicine; one entered dental school. Two entered the seminary, one is a missionary, one is in the Peace Corps, one became a musician, one is a farmer, one is a pilot, and two became homemakers. In general, every graduate with the B.S. degree obtains meaningful employment or continues his or her education.