What does it mean to study Biochemistry?

The study of biochemistry is the intense investigation of the chemical processes that underlie biological function. Studying the various proteins, carbohydrates, RNA, DNA, and lipids that interact and makeup the various systems within biological organisms. This field excels in its application to medicine, toxicology, and microbiology, but certainly can be and is applied to agriculture, food science, and biotechnology. In practice, biology tends to end at the protein level, content to explain a reaction as a result of a particular enzyme acting on substrates. Biochemistry pursues further, and looks at the molecular level of that enzyme, looking for active sites and the catalytic residues within its structure. Biochemistry investigates the kinds of chemistry biological systems perform within their respective environments within the cell, and can be targeted to any of the macromolecules within. This approach uses the chemistry of the system in question to determine specific function and mechanism of given reactions and components involved, investigated through a variety of means, to give a detailed report of exactly how that biological system or mechanism works. This works in conjunction with the techniques used to comprehend the interactions of the various macromolecules, such as western blotting, immunoprecipitation, or chromatography. Using these techniques, along with x-ray crystallography, both structure and function of various macromolecules can be determined.

 

I have personally chosen this field of study for its dedication to the mechanistic explanation of biological events. As a pragmatist, I feel any research and study should be able to contribute in some way to the world at large. The field of biology, while by no means lacking in information, tends to have many “black box” explanations to phenomena observed in the field. After learning the basics of what organisms are capable of doing in cellular environments, I felt compelled to understand more. The “black box” approach I felt limited what useful information could be transferred outside of the field, and that it limited the possibilities to capitalize on cellular technologies for use elsewhere. Combining this compulsion with my innate affection towards chemistry, especially organic chemistry, biochemistry is most interesting to me as it is a wonderful union of practical biology and chemistry. The limits of organic chemistry I believe can be overcome by using the cellular machinery that exists, generating more options for green chemistry to be done at reasonable costs and rates. Therefore, it is imperative for me to learn the biochemical techniques to further probe and understand the “black boxes” of biology, so that their mechanisms can be elucidated and altered to practical purposes.

 

As I move forward in my career, I hope to use biochemical techniques and strategies to discover and make use of biological processes for practical purposes. I have noticed that commonly in chemistry we have a generally good idea of what sort of chemical structure would be desired for a given purpose, but few reasonable or economical ways of synthesizing such a compound or material. By studying and manipulating the biological machinery available to us, there could be more useful and economical approaches to synthesis. Because I am currently intending on pursuing graduate research in chemistry, I feel this background will inform and enhance my choices of synthetic approaches. I believe the cellular machinery could be harnessed to be among the most useful chemical factories should they be properly understood. I hope to enter the realm of biotechnology, making use of the various biological processes for commercial products and applications. I believe more green technology can be created from further study of biochemistry and its approaches, which will be able to add to our global effort in keeping our planet safe and sustainable.

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