It was the first multidisciplinary program at Vassar College since Euthenics.
The curriculum was reorganized in the early 1990s into its present form, but biochemistry always emphasized research as an important component to the program.
Eduard Buchner, who in 1897 reported that fermentation could be done by cell-free extracts of yeast, set the stage for this work.
Fermentation is the conversion of glucose to ethanol and carbon dioxide.
The course requirements were numerous and spread out over several disciplines: biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics.
This interdepartmental program was one of the first biochemistry programs offered by an undergraduate institution.
Prior to 1985 biochemistry was largely reserved for post-baccalaureate study.
In an article titled Rodney Boyer wrote that a few colleges and universities began offering bachelor’s degrees in the late 1960s.
It was known that microorganisms, particularly yeast used in beer brewing and wine making, carry out fermentation and it was thought that fermentation was a life process, something only living biological organisms were capable of.
Buchner’s work established that chemical changes in living cells occurred by action of enzymes and that these processes could be dissected and understood by isolating and characterizing enzymes.