Biochemistry is the study of vital chemical processes and applications in biological living systems. It allows us to understand the physiology of organisms at the biomolecular level, as it integrates the sciences of molecular biology, neuroscience, structural biology and biophysics to unravel the chemical basis of life in bacteria, plants and animals. As a child, I had always been fascinated by the complexity of chemistry and biology, more so than any other subject. Particularly, discussions in class regarding bacterial infections generated tremendous curiosity and remained as one of the most intriguing topics to me. This was partly due to my amazement in how they were so widespread in the local area where I lived in Syria, along with the dangers that these tiny microbes imposed to human beings all over the world. More closely, we had always learned that Gram-negative bacteria are much harder to kill than Gram-positive bacteria due to their possession of a unique outer membrane structure, which was somehow related to increased pathogenic behavior of these organisms. Because of this, I sought to strengthen my knowledge in understanding how microscopic structural differences between the two membranes impact the functionalities of these bacteria, and what chemical processes lead to those differences. Ultimately, this would segue into fulfilling my enthusiasm for biochemistry and attaining a job in the medical field as well.
Considering that conceptual learning was only partially satisfying to me, I determined to become more engaged in gaining hands-on experience in the biochemical and clinical fields. As a result, I first started off by shadowing a general practitioner in the area that I lived in. This experience was particularly helpful in allowing me to learn tremendous new medical terminology, observe the different symptoms that correspond to pathogenic infections (primarily bacterial) and get exposed to the names of the most common antibiotics used against these bacterial infections, including broad-spectrum penicillins and different cephalosporins. I even became more familiar with how these antibiotics may interfere with the bacteria and what structures they target, which made me even more eager to enhance my knowledge and pursue a biochemistry-rich, clinical career. Therefore, I also elected to become a volunteer in the intensive care unit of a local hospital a few years later. Here, I was enriched with tremendous knowledge with respect to enzymology and how medications enhance or interfere with biological systems at the protein level. The importance of enzymes in catalyzing an immense number of reactions in organisms become more obvious to me, which attracted me even further towards this field.
A couple years following my arrival to the United States, I joined Muhlenberg College as a pre-medical undergraduate student seeking to pursue a career in medicine. Aligning with my passion, I decided to major in biochemistry, and be further exposed to more difficult principles and concepts. Fortunately, the elite instructors and classes at Muhlenberg did not disappoint, but rather made me thankful for this decision. I progressively learned more about enzymes and their kinetics, and became more knowledgeable about incredible biochemical research and discoveries that relate to human health in particular. Amongst all of the great experiences at Muhlenberg, research under the supervision of Dr. Keri Colabroy was the most gratifying. Through developing new kinetic models for L-DOPA 2,3-dioxygenase from Streptomyces lincolnensis, an enzyme involved in the biosynthesis of the propylhygric acid moiety of the antibiotic lincomycin, I was part of potential future incentives in developing a lincomycin antibiotic derivative that is less resisted and more effective against certain bacterial strains than the current medication available. As a result, this directly tied with my ambitions to employ biochemical knowledge and techniques in combating infections and supporting my aspirations in becoming a doctor. Altogether, biochemistry is truly an astonishing field, and I am grateful to have developed a passion for a science that integrates and explains many chemical and biological aspects of life today, and helps me fulfill my dream in becoming a successful physician.
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