Biochemistry is the study of chemical reactions occurring inside organisms. It combines elements from both biology and chemistry. Biochemistry became a separate discipline in the early 20th century. Biochemists study relatively large molecules such as proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates, which are important in metabolism and other cellular activities; They also study molecules such as enzymes and DNA.
History of Biochemistry
Research in biochemistry has been conducted for the past 400 years, although the term biochemistry itself was only coined in 1903 by the German chemist Carl Neuberg. The study of biochemistry began essentially with the invention of the microscope in 1665 by Robert Hooke. He was the first person to look at cells under a microscope, but they were dead cells; Later, in 1674, Anton van Leeuwenhoek saw living plant cells under a microscope. Now that scientists had seen cells for the first time, they were eager to study them and discover more about the processes taking place within them. In the 18th century, French scientist Antoine Lavoisier proposed a reaction mechanism for photosynthesis, which is the process by which plants produce their own food from carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight, releasing oxygen in the process. He was also the first person to investigate the cellular respiration process, the process of making the energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in the cell’s mitochondria.
In the 19th century, the prevailing belief was that the protoplasm, the gelatinous interior of the cell, carried out all the processes related to the breakdown of food molecules. The chemistry of living organisms was believed to be inherently different from that of non-living organisms. In 1897 Eduard Buchner conducted an experiment that would change this opinion. He prepared a yeast extract that he called zymase. Although the zymase did not contain live yeast cells, it was still able to ferment glucose to produce carbon dioxide and ethanol. Following the Buchner convention, enzymes began to be named for the reaction they carried out; for example, DNA polymerase polymerizes DNA. (Zymase was later discovered to be multiple enzymes.)
In the 20th century, more progress was made. Hans Krebs discovered the citric acid cycle (which would also be known as the Krebs cycle), a series of chemical reactions during cellular respiration where glucose and oxygen are converted to ATP, carbon dioxide, and water. Furthermore, DNA became known as the genetic material of the cell and its structure was identified by James Watson and Francis Crick from previous research by Rosalind Franklin. Today, the latest technology, such as recombinant DNA, gene splicing, radioisotope tagging, and electron microscopy, are advancing scientific knowledge more than ever.
Biochemical research topics include enzymatic and kinetic mechanisms, the production of proteins from DNA, RNA, and amino acids through transcription and translation processes and the metabolic processes of cells. Biochemistry is closely related to molecular biology, which is the study of biological molecules such as DNA, proteins, and other macromolecules. Molecular biology techniques are often used to study biochemistry, along with techniques from other fields such as immunology and physics. Since all life can be divided into small molecules and chemical reactions, biochemistry is a broad science that is used in the study of all kinds of biology, from botany to molecular genetics to pharmacology. Chemical reactions in cells are emphasized, but specific research topics can vary widely. For example, biochemists may be interested in investigating the chemical reactions that occur in the brain (thus connecting biochemistry with neurochemistry), how cells divide and differentiate, cellular communication, the chemical basis of genetic inheritance, or how diseases like cancer spread.
Biochemistry is a laboratory science. To work in the field of biochemistry, a person must be interested in conducting research and must obtain at least a bachelor’s degree. Many biochemists teach and are principal investigators of university research laboratories; These positions require doctorates. While most Ph.D. biochemists conduct research, some are academic professors and only teach at universities. However, these biochemists also had to research throughout the graduate school to complete their doctoral thesis. Other biochemists are laboratory managers, which requires a master’s degree. With a bachelor’s degree, one can become a scientific research technician. The more education an individual has, the more independence they will generally have in a laboratory. Technicians perform bench work and help carry out experiments designed by a principal investigator. A laboratory manager has more responsibilities than a technician and can carry out independent research projects under the guidance of a principal investigator. In addition to the academy, biochemists also work in industry positions. They may work in government laboratories or for a variety of companies, including agricultural, pharmaceutical, public health, or biotech companies. Others provide specific services such as toxicology or forensic medicine.
To be a competent biochemist, one must be interested in biology or chemistry research and learn appropriate laboratory skills and safety procedures. It is also important to have mathematical and statistical skills and to be able to analyze the data generated from the experiments. The ability to think outside the box and generate new ideas is important in designing experiments. Biochemists should also keep up-to-date with scientific literature by reading recent publications in scientific journals and attending conferences. Although it requires a lot of work, training, and study, biochemists can discover new information about the chemistry of living things and contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge.
Students interested in becoming biochemists must take many science courses during their undergraduate stage. General knowledge of biology and chemistry is essential. Many schools offer biochemistry as a specific specialty. It is also possible to become a biochemist after earning a bachelor’s degree in biology or chemistry, but one must ensure that he has a good background in the subject in which he is not specializing; that is, a biology degree needs to take chemistry courses (this is generally a requirement of all biology degrees), and a chemistry degree must also take biology courses. Of course, there are also specific biochemistry courses that students must take. Also, it is important to be well versed in mathematics and physics.
As students advance in their undergraduate careers, they will take more specific science courses based on their specific interests. For example, they could take classes in botany, molecular biology, biophysics, biomedical science, or structural biology (how molecules are organized in cells and tissues), depending on where your research interests lie.
Biochemistry Definition, History, Research And, Careers