by Balqis binti Mohd Zulkifle

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What is biochemistry?

It is science branch that investigates chemical processes that happens in living organism. This career combines both chemistry and biology concept and it is a laboratory based science. Biochemistry is more focus processes happens at molecular level. It is about investigating the cells and how cells 'communicate' with themselves for self-defence and growth. It covers range of science too such as microbiology and genetics.

What chemistry concept is used in biochemistry?

First of all, basic chemistry is a very important concept. This is because in order to understand the chemical reaction in chemistry, you have to know the basis. In SCH4U, concept of structure and properties of matter is basic chemistry. In this chapter, you will learn about atoms, its history and its properties. There are a few chemist develop the theory of atoms and its properties such as J.J. Thomson, Ernest Rutherford and also Neils Bohr. Other than that, you will learn about quantum mechanics, which describes the various properties of an atom. In the same unit, you also will learn chemical bonding. In this chapter, you will learn types of chemical bonds. You also will learn to identify the structure or shape of molecules using VSEPR theory. As you identify the shape of molecules, you may know the properties of molecules. In this chapter too, you will learn intermolecular forces exist between molecules and how it affect some physical properties of molecules.

In biochemistry, organic chemistry concept is used. Due to investigating chemical processes inside organism, knowledge of organic chemistry is very crucial. Organic chemistry is a concept about organic compounds and its reactions such as hydrocarbons, carboxylic acids, alcohols, esters and fats. You will learn how these organic compound are made from one another, its physical and chemical properties. Other than that, you will also learn about polymers in this topic. There are two types of polymers, which are synthetic polymers and natural polymers. In synthetic polymers, there are two types; synthetic addition polymers and synthetic condensation polymer. The synthesis of these two synthetic polymers are different, so you will learn how to differentiate these two synthetic polymers. In living organisms, there are natural polymers such as carbohydrates, proteins and DNA.

Energy changes and rates of reaction also a concept included to be a biochemist. This concept explains about thermochemistry and also rate of reactions. You will learn how to differentiate between exothermic reaction or endothermic reaction and calculate molar enthalpy, which indicates the energy absorbed or released. You will also learn about rate of reaction and the factor that affecting rate of reaction. Since organism undergoes cell respiration, biochemist uses this concept to calculate how much energy is produced when variety type of food are consumed. Using this concept too, biochemist can determine the metabolism of an organism.

Other than thermochemistry, a biochemist also need knowledge of chemical systems and equilibrium. It is a concept where chemical reactions can be established by equilibrium. There is also a principle called Le Chatelier's Principle and there are some factors affecting it. In the same concept, acids and alkalis are also learnt through two different principles which are Arrhenius and Bronsted-Lowry. In this concept, you are also going to learn about buffers and how they work as human body also has buffers.

Working environment of a biochemist

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In order to be a biochemist, you will need to enter primary school for sure. What's important is to take science subjects as elective subjects in Grade 9 to 12 because it eases you to meet the requirement for diploma. To get certification for diploma, it is compulsory to achieve these 18 compulsory credits, earn 12 credits from school's course calendar, complete 40 hours of Community Involvement and also pass Ontario Secondary Literacy Test. The 18 compulsory credits includes:

  • 4 credits in English (1 credit per grade)
  • 3 credits in Mathematics (at least one credit from grade 11 or 12)

  • 2 credits in Science

  • 1 credit in Canadian Geography

  • 1 credit in Canadian History

  • 1 credit in the Arts

  • 1 credit in Health and Physical Education

  • 1 credit in French as a second language

  • 0.5 credit in Civics

  • 0.5 credit in Career Studies

  • 1 additional credit in English, or a third language, or social sciences

    and the humanities or Canadian and world studies, or guidance and

    career education, or cooperative education.

  • 1 additional credit in health and physical education, or the arts, or

    business studies, or cooperative education.

  • 1 additional credit in science (grade 11 or 12), or technological

    education (grades 9 - 12), or cooperative education.

Then, you can pursue your degree in Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and it is optional to pursue in Masters and PhD. You can either be a biochemist right after you finish degree in biochemistry or pursue in Masters and PhD.

Well-known Biochemist: Charles Best

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Charles Best is one of the well-known biochemist. This Canadian biochemist became famous as he is a co-discoverer of insulin. He actually get to work with Frederick Banting in his research to control diabetes mellitus by extracting pancreatic extract, insulin. He did not receive the Nobel Prize although he was participated in that research due to incompletion of medical degree. However, Dr. Banting would like to share portion of his Nobel Prize with Best. After a while, he did some research on his own on finding effective treatment of diabetes for his aunt who died in 1918. He contributes a lot in medical sector as diabetes is one of the common health problem these day. Other than discovery of insulin, Best also discovered a vitamin, choline and enzyme, histaminase. He also was the one of the first who introduce anticoagulants to treat thrombosis.

What's interesting about this career?

Since biochemistry is about investigating chemical reactions in living organism, I think it matters a lot. There are so many research done by biochemists including how our body works in molecular levels such as what DNA does, why leaves are green and many more. By becoming a biochemist, we able to understand what is happening in our own body, plants and living organisms surrounds us. Biochemist can solve some biological problem that could occur inside our body. For that, I can say that biochemist can help to conduct some research regarding to health problem that relates to chemical reaction inside our body.

Biochemist does not specifically work on research on living organisms. They also work for food research, industries, agriculture, pharmacy and more. What interest me about biochemist is they keep improve products based on their research. With biochemist, things can be improvise. For example, a skin care product is improvise using different ingredients from time to time.

Why is this career path important to our society?

Since biochemists mostly work with industries in research and development, this career matters a lot in our society. This is because most biochemists found ways to solve many problems. For instance, biochemists who work at hospitals identify some new diseases and also find ways to cure the diseases. They have to analyze what causes the diseases and how it affect our body's antibody. This matters a lot when a new disease discovered, biochemist could come up with a new vaccine that prevents that particular disease. This

Other than that, biochemist also can improve quantity and quality of crops in agriculture sector. This can be done by biochemist by analyzing the chemical reaction occur inside the crops when different nutrients given and different environment experienced by the crops. This can increase the production of crops and helps in agricultural sector.

Biochemist also matters a lot in pharmaceutical and food and beverage industries. They keep the qualities of products in good condition. Other than that, biochemist can come up with new products especially in pharmaceutical. In curing some diseases, natural ingredients can be used as cure. That is the responsibility of biochemist, which is have research on these natural ingredients that the benefits are not yet discovered. When there are more biochemist in a society, they can come up with a new local product. This gives job opportunity to fresh graduates too.


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