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The Breakdown

How do we actually get energy from food? What truly happens when our bodies fight off a virus? How do you clone a gene? These complex and intriguing questions are all the provenance of the biochemist.

As a biochemistry major, you’ll study the chemistry of life processes. More specifically, you will learn about the minute details of every organism and the substances, molecular compounds and physiology that allow life to operate. Topics covered should include DNA replication and repair, enzyme kinetics, chromatography and metabolic pathways. Your coursework will likely be a combination of classroom lectures and lab work. And, importantly, many biochem majors also have the opportunity to participate in research projects.

Typical of most scientific disciplines, biochem majors will need solid quantitative and analytical skills. They should also be good at synthesizing information (after all, they are combining several fields). Additionally, an eye for observation and a passion for research will also prove useful. Further, because life in the lab is rarely a solo venture, teamwork skills are essential. Finally, biochemists should enjoy examining life through a microscope (literally).

Nuts and Bolts

As a biochemistry major, you’ll learn all about our physiological underpinnings in classes such as: Cell Biology, Introduction to Animal Behavior, Organic Chemistry, Thermodynamics and Kinetics, Microbial Physiology and Diversity, Immunology, Calculus, Proteins and Enzymes, Pharmacology, Biochemical Methods, Molecular Medicine and Chemistry of Metabolism.

Decisions, Decisions

Clearly, biochemistry majors are intrigued by the intersection of the natural sciences. Therefore, they also frequently take classes in biology, chemistry, physics, nursing, pharmacology, psychology, botany, neuroscience, biotechnology, biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, molecular biology, geology, geochemistry and environmental science.

What's Next

Biochemistry majors will be delighted to discover that there are a myriad of avenues available upon graduation. Certainly, many heed the health profession call and head to medical, nursing, dental, veterinary or pharmacy programs. Of course, professional degrees are just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg. A number of grads also pursue research positions, be it within the petroleum, pharmaceutical, food, biotechnology or textile industries. Further, they might land employment in toxicology, environmental protection, forensic chemistry or engineering. And even law and journalism are (relatively) common possibilities. Indeed, the door out of the biochem lab can truly lead anywhere.


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Don Munce