OCW Scholar

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Course Overview

This course examines the chemical and physical properties of the cell and its building blocks, with special emphasis on the structures of proteins and principles of catalysis, as well as the chemistry of organic / inorganic cofactors required for chemical transformations within the cell. Topics encompass the basic principles of metabolism and regulation in pathways, including glycolysis, gluconeogenesis, fatty acid synthesis / degradation, pentose phosphate pathway, Krebs cycle and oxidative phosphorylation.


There are no prerequisites, though one year of high school chemistry is the expected background for this course.

Why Study Biochemistry

Biochemistry is the chemistry of biological systems. It is a central science found at the junction of biology, chemistry, physics, and medicine. By studying biochemistry, we can gather insights into the fundamental principles that govern the behavior and function of the complex biomolecules inside living cells. These insights help us make sense of the natural world we live in by revealing the driving forces behind the dynamic biological phenomena that we are ordinarily oblivious to. For instance, we can understand the fundamental chemical reactions that enable bacteria to thrive and spoil our leftover food, the complex metabolic pathways that enable our pet dogs to jump up and greet us as we enter the door, the intricate and difficult chemistry carried out by plants as they synthesize the nutrients of our future meals and refresh our air. Biochemistry provides insight into the molecular mechanisms at play that enable all these transformations, and countless more, and it often grants us the ability to intervene when our own bodily systems are impaired by disease. To understand biochemistry is to understand the wonderful chemistry that makes it possible for life to exist and flourish on our planet.

Course Goals

  1. To introduce you to all of the chemical players of life: Their structures and chemistry and, consequently, their function. Without this background you cannot understand biochemistry.
  2. To introduce you to the central pathways of metabolism. At first glance, metabolism can be daunting, but all of biochemistry is made up of a surprisingly small number of chemical transformations, which are used again and again. Understanding these transformations will allow you to predict most metabolic interconversions (see the Lexicon of Biochemical Reactions).
  3. Once you are familiar with the pathways, you can then to understand their regulation and their integration under different environmental conditions.


The text for this course is:

Buy at Amazon Voet, Donald, Judith Voet, and Charlotte Pratt. Fundamentals of Biochemistry. 4th edition. Wiley, 2012. ISBN: 9780470547847.


This OCW Scholar course, designed for independent study, is closely modeled on the course taught on the MIT campus. The on-campus course has two types of class sessions: Lectures and recitations. The lectures meet three times each week and recitations meet once a week. In recitations, an instructor or Teaching Assistant elaborates on concepts presented in lecture, working through new examples with student participation, and answers questions.

MIT students who take the corresponding residential class typically report an average of 10–15 hours spent each week, including lectures, recitations, readings, homework, and exams. All students are encouraged to supplement the textbooks and readings with their own research.
The Scholar course has three major learning units, called Modules. Each module has been divided into a sequence of lecture sessions that include:

  • Textbook Readings
  • Lecture Notes or Storyboards
  • A video by Professor JoAnne Stubbe or Professor John Essigmann
  • Problem Sets and solutions

To help guide your learning, some of these problem sets are accompanied by Problem Solving Videos where Dr. Bogdan Fedeles solves one of the problems from the set. In addition to the Problem Sets, the course also has Exams with Solutions.

Meet the Team

This OCW Scholar course was developed by JoAnne Stubbe, Professor of Chemistry & Biology at MIT, and National Medal of Science recipient, and John Essigmann Professor of Chemistry & Biological Engineering at MIT and Director of the MIT Center for Environmental Health Sciences.

The Help Session Videos were developed by Dr. Bogdan Fedeles, Research Scientist at MIT and former Teaching Assistant for 5.07 Biochemistry.

To learn more, visit the Meet the Team page.

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