Our Department was founded in 1947 as the Department of Biochemistry and Nutrition. From the outset, the Department has been at the core of the molecular life sciences at Texas A&M. In fact, Biochemical Genetics (BICH431) was one of the first molecular genetics courses taught in the nation, actually beginning the year before the publication of the Watson-Crick model for DNA structure (1953). The half-century since has seen the spectacular expansion of biological inquiry into the realms of the chemical and atomic determinants of life and the profound transformation of Texas A&M from a small military, engineering and agricultural campus into a world-class research university (eighth in the nation in total research funding). As the new millenium begins, the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics is extending its rich heritage in teaching and research. Every semester about 1000 undergraduate and graduate students take our course offerings, which are considered core material in each of the life science programs at the university. More than 40 departmental faculty, 80 doctoral students, 35 post-doctoral scientists and 300 undergraduate majors are involved in our academic and research programs. Even more activity is in the works. A departmental development plan is being implemented which will see significant and rapid growth in the scale and intensity of the scholarly endeavor here in the coming years. It is an exciting time for a Department with rich traditions.
The Department maintains modern, state-of-the-art research facilities. The Biochemistry Building, a 166,000 square foot structure with over 90,000 square feet of laboratory and office space, was opened in 1989. The first floor is the location of the new NMR center, as well as departmental offices, lecture halls, a microcomputer center, the Biochemistry stockroom, and the AgCaFe, which serves convenient meals and snacks to students, faculty and staff. The second floor houses our new x-ray crystallography and molecular graphics facilities, as well as modern teaching labs and prep rooms. The third and fourth floors contain 48 research laboratory modules occupied by the different research groups, as well as specialty rooms for animal and plant tissue culture and biohazard isolation, the Center for Protein Chemistry, and meeting rooms. Large equipment (centrifuges, environmental chambers and ultracold freezers) is clustered in common equipment hallways, and we are proud of our long tradition that all of the large equipment in the Department is available for the common use of our entire research community. Biochemistry students also benefit from the strong research infrastructure at Texas A&M University, including extensive instrumentation available in the Departments of Chemistry and Biology and core facilities that provide automated DNA sequencing and synthesis. The Biochemistry Building is only a short walk from the Medical Sciences Library, which houses collections of journals and books that encompass the basic biomedical sciences and major works in clinical medicine. The library subscribes to approximately 1,700 journals. Computer services to search the scientific literature, as well as on-line editions of many journals, are freely available to students and staff at Texas A&M.