Reflection on Biochemistry

Biochemistry is essential for a thorough understanding of biological systems, as well as chemical phenomena.  The melding of both biology and chemistry provides insights that neither would be able to provide independently. Novel insights gained from this discipline contribute to not only other disciplines, such as molecular biology, immunology, organic chemistry, and genetics, but to the wealth of human knowledge as a whole. Biochemistry was once just known as the study of metabolism, but has now evolved into a broader discipline aptly defined as the study of chemical processes within living organisms.

A broad understanding of a system is often immensely helpful in understanding complex systems. I originally chose to major in biochemistry because I really enjoyed both biology and chemistry classes, but I was entirely unaware of how the discipline itself was nestled into it’s own little niche. I distinctly remember being the first of the freshman class to declare my major. Dr. Hark signed my sheet, asking me why I wanted to major in biochemistry, and I quite literally had nothing to respond with, so I just stood there awkwardly for a while. The experience resulted in me thinking over the major for a bit before realizing why I wanted to choose it. While freshman-year me was very unsure and superficial in why he wanted to major in biochemistry, at this point in my academic career I am much more confident in my decision. Understanding the system at both a broad and a minute level is both satisfying and worthwhile. It’s also essential for the successful culmination of knowledge into something directly useful for the public, such as a drug, medical procedure, or lifestyle recommendation.

I came into Muhlenberg planning on becoming a medical doctor. This plan rapidly changed to an MD-PhD as I began to learn a lot more about both biology and chemistry my freshman year, finding myself with more questions than answers at every turn. At this point, however, I have decided to just pursue a PhD. Doing research with Dr. Young, I’ve come to realize that what I’m most interested in is by far the research aspect of science. I plan on pursuing a degree in medicinal chemistry and either entering the field of drug discovery or doing chemistry or biochemistry research for the NIH. Regardless, I hope to make some type of major, lasting, positive difference in that field. After spending some time in either industry or NIH research, however, I would like to enter academia and teach at a college somewhere where I can also do research, similar to Muhlenberg.

My biochemistry major is literally essential for the above plan to succeed. If I was distinctly a biology or chemistry student, I wouldn’t have the breadth to be as nonspecific as I am with my future goals. My background in biochemistry will give me the tools to understand the mechanisms and molecules at play in biological systems, design potential molecules to alter these systems, and successfully test this via various biological and/or chemical assays. A biochemistry major at Muhlenberg is like the liberal arts of the sciences; you’re well-rounded and likely competent once you’ve completed it.  Whatever I end up doing, I’ll know I’ve been well-prepared for it. There’s also the fact that such a well-roundedness makes me a much more marketable candidate for future jobs, but that’s secondary to my broad, general interest in the sciences.

Overall, I’m extremely happy with my choice of major. The biochemistry major is a difficult major, filled with tough courses and demanding schedules. This challenge puts me out of my comfort zone, but outside of one’s comfort zone is where they will grow best. It might be a stressful major, but it’s (mostly) eustress.

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