Why I Study Biochemistry

Biochemistry is a highly comprehensive field of science with many reasons to study it, having importance in countless aspects of human life today. It has applications in medicine, from general practice to pharmaceutical and medical research, nutrition and food science, and environmental science, among others. Each of these areas is highly impactful to human health and wellness, and each of these require biochemical insight to determine how a number of their processes work, and what actions or procedures must be used to work in these areas.

Recent biochemical advances have been responsible for a number of important technologies we often take advantage of that serve critical functions in society today. Treatments for cancer and genetic disorders owe their success in large part to biochemical study of important underlying genetic structures and processes, such as the identification of the p53 gene as an important tumor suppressor. Drugs and pharmaceuticals are developed through the study of their effects on the many biochemical processes that run the body. The further study of biochemistry itself, along with many other disciplines within biology, is possible due to biochemical advances in detecting and purifying biomolecules. For example, Polymerase Chain Reactions (PCR), is a technique that is critical to biological study today for providing a method for easily and efficiently replicating a DNA sequence of interest to an observable quantity using a polymerase from T. aquaticus. Not only did this breakthrough simplify the process by which researchers could obtain DNA of interest for study, but it also allowed for the development of DNA testing services, for purposes such as criminal investigation or paternity/maternity testing that had previously been impossible due to limits in obtaining a testable quantity of subject DNA.

I chose to study biochemistry chiefly because I thought it to be the best overall starting point for my future career. As a pre-med student, at a college without a formal pre-med degree, biochemistry stuck out as the major with the broadest, as well as the most relevant, coverage of medicine-related science. In addition to coverage of biochemistry as a distinct discipline, the major also offers significant coverage of both biology and chemistry separately through its intro courses, and a variety of elective choices. The major thus covers many topics that medical schools expect their applicants to be versed in, including biochemistry, organic chemistry, general chemistry, calculus, and various branches of biology. This wide range of material is not only extremely helpful in preparation for medical school, it also provides the academic basis for a plethora of other scientific career paths should I change my mind about medical school for any reason, such as pharmacy school, doctorate programs, or even distantly related fields in public health or science administration. Its cross-disciplinary course distribution provides exposure to a wide array of subjects, which in turn allows for a diverse and wide-ranging education not found to quite the same extent in other studies.

Furthermore, the study of biochemistry in and of itself is the study of the systems that serve as the basis for life itself. Studying biochemistry allows one to study the structure and function of the innumerable biomolecules that make up life in a fundamental way, from basic amino acids and monomeric sugars, to complex multi part proteins and polysaccharides. If nothing else, it is at least a fascinating field of study providing a deep scientific insight to the many processes and systems instrumental for life. It serves as the bridge between chemistry, which provides understanding into the workings of nature, and biology, which provides an understanding of the components of life, using chemistry to explain how and why biological systems work.

2 comments on “Why I Study Biochemistry

  1. Well said Ryan! Having options is smart! Also, biochemistry gives you the language to discuss life on other planets without people assuming you’re crazy. Finding organic molecules is not enough, but if you identify a metabolite, cofactor, nucleoprotein etc. doesn’t this make the discussion relevant?

  2. Nicely stated! Having options is a smart strategy. Biochemistry also provides the language we can use to discuss life elsewhere in the universe without sounding crazy. Do you think finding organic molecules is enough infer life? Or do you think finding metabolites, nucleotides & other biomolecules is necessary to legitimize the discovery of life?

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