Why biochemistry?

Author: Brandon Eden

Biology cannot be understood without understanding the organ systems. The organ systems cannot be understood without understanding the structure and function of each organ and the tissues that compose them. The tissues cannot be understood without understanding cellular function, and what happens inside the cell cannot be understood without biochemistry. Everything comes back to biochemistry, and in my view, biochemistry is the central science.

Biochemistry is more than just memorizing a sequence of chemical events in the body. Many pathways and reactions should be present in a biochemist’s everyday knowledge, but pathways can be referenced when needed. To study biochemistry is to understand how these chemical reactions are so intricately related and depend on each other to sustain life. Energy is harnessed for cellular work through complex chemical pathways, and these pathways are heavily regulated and dependent on the current state of the organism. Glycolysis, the Krebs cycle, and the electron transport chain are the central focus of energy production, and the energy is used to perform further biochemical work which consists of what seems like an endless amount of other chemical processes that can be studied. It is the job of a biochemist to make sense of the endless amount of chemical activity in the body by linking the pathways together to understand the effect on the organism.

At the root of any biology process lies biochemistry. Biochemistry must be studied to understand genetics, gene regulation, metabolism, and many processes that maintain homeostasis such as glycolysis and gluconeogenesis, glycogenesis and glycogenolysis, insulin and glucagon effects, bone production and resorption; the list goes on and on. Biochemistry is used to understand these processes, and knowledge of many other fields is essential to understand biochemistry. It is the central science because it brings these other fields together. Organic chemistry is needed to understand the chemical and physical properties of molecules and how atoms rearrange to form products through bond breaking and bond forming events. Biology is needed to understand the context of the reactions and where they take place as well as the effect. Physical chemistry and thermodynamics are needed to understand why some reactions proceed while others don’t in addition to the kinetic versus thermodynamic product.

I chose biochemistry as my major because I want to go beyond a typical understanding of biological processes. I want to interrogate concepts and weave them together to understand how they are all related. With biochemistry, I can get to the root cause of how and why things take place in the body. I feel more comfortable being able to understand biological phenomena at all levels of the biological hierarchy from the organ right down to the molecular processes in the cell. I aspire to be a physician, and having this kind of knowledge is essential to be able to troubleshoot problems and come up with efficient treatments. I want to be link a patient’s symptoms to the biological cause and trace it all the way back to its core; biochemistry. To take this even further, I want to be able to refer to scientific literature and understand the experiments and results to seek out relevant findings and apply them in a patient centered way. Biochemistry will enable me to link fragile bones to an imbalance between calcitonin versus parathyroid hormone and the bone forming osteoblasts versus bone resorbing osteoclasts. Knowing the fine details of bone chemistry and hormones will enable me to understand the cause, and biochemistry will also allow me to understand pharmacology and prescribe the right medication to provide an effective treatment plan. In medical school, I will study different organ systems and learn the specifics of each one, but they will all be seemingly linked by the central science: biochemistry.


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