This article contains easy steps on how to become a Biochemist.
A biochemist is a scientist who studies the chemical composition and processes of living organisms at the molecular and cellular levels. Biochemists design and carry out research projects involving biological molecules, such as DNA, proteins and enzymes, manage project teams, documents and report findings to members of the scientific community.
Thus, biochemistry can be described as the study of living things at the molecular level, focusing mainly on the processes that occur. For example, biochemistry may study cell development, how cell structure relates to function, how cells communicate with each other to fight disease and how they metabolize food and oxygen. In this profession, your work can encompass, metabolism, reproduction, growth and death.
This article contains information on how one can become a Biochemist but before that, it is paramount to know the various aspects of biochemistry, core responsibilities and skills required of a Biochemist. Therefore, below are the duties and skills of a Biochemist.
BRANCHES OF BIOCHEMISTRY
Biochemistry encompasses all living things, it’s a very wide field of study with a range of applications in medicine, agriculture and the environment in total. The various branches of biochemistry includes:
1. Clinical Biochemistry
This branch of biochemistry involves the practice of laboratory medicine in clinics and hospitals. Here, practitioners test laboratory samples of patients for disease diagnosis,risk determination and treatment. Clinical biochemists may also conduct medical research and improve laboratory equipment and practices.
2. Medical Biochemistry
This deals with biochemistry in its medical context. Practitioners study how diseases generate, how cells react to disease, what mutations lead to cancer, how nerve signals are affected by chemicals and how drugs interact with body cells.
3. Analytical Biochemistry
Uses sophisticated equipment to analyze biological samples. For example, analytical biochemists separate and test samples to determine the substances they contain, and the quantities of those substances. For example, they might test a blood sample to determine the presence and quantity of steroids or toxins.
4. Nutritional Biochemistry
This aspect of biochemistry studies how the body derives energy and nutrients from food, and how different diets promote, boost health or contribute to disease as the case may be.
5. Plant Biochemistry
This deals with how plants metabolize carbon dioxide and sunlight to create sugars and release oxygen. In other words, it deals with photosynthesis.
It also studies how they process pollutants from the air, soil and water. Some plants can filter out contaminants in the environment and break them down into harmless components. Plant biochemists study how these processes work, which can help restore contaminated sites.
6. Comparative Biochemistry
This deals with the study of evolutionary relationships or study of differences and similarities in biological or physiological processes among living organisms. On the other hand, it compares how different species or classes of organisms perform similar functions, such as regulation of glucose levels. Such comparisons can help us better understand our own biochemistry and health. For evolutionary studies, comparative biochemistry employs genes, enzymes and proteins.
Responsibilities of a Biochemist
Biochemists study the chemical and physical principles of living things as well as the biological processes, such as cell development, growth, heredity, and disease.
Biochemists typically do the following:
- Plan and conduct complex projects in basic and applied research. Biochemists use advanced technologies, such as lasers and fluorescent microscopes to conduct experiments and analysis.
- They also use x-rays and computer modeling software to determine the structures of proteins and other molecules. Biochemists involved in biotechnology research use chemical enzymes to synthesize recombinant DNA.
- Applied research in biochemistry has many uses outside of medicine. In agriculture, biochemists research ways to genetically engineer crops so that they will be, resistant to insects, diseases and drought.
- Manage laboratory teams and monitor the quality of their work.
- Research the effects of substances such as drugs, hormones, and nutrients on tissues and biological processes.
- Biochemists help determine the environmental causes of disease. This information can help policymakers eliminate or reduce risk, and potentially help doctors treat the conditions.
- Keep up with current knowledge by reviewing the findings of other researchers and by attending conferences.
- Prepare technical reports, research papers, and recommendations based on their research findings
- Present research findings to scientists and other colleagues
Regardless of the field of application, most biochemists perform many of the same duties.
Important Skills of a Biochemist
As a Biochemist or a prospective Biochemist, you are expected to have the following skills:
1. Analytical skills
Biochemists must be able to conduct scientific experiments and analysis with accuracy and precision. Inorder to do this, you must have a good analytical skill.
2. Critical-thinking skills
Upon carrying out research, biochemists draw conclusions from results of experiments. This is made possible through sound reasoning and judgment.
3. Communication skills
Biochemists have to write and publish reports and research papers, give presentations of their findings, and communicate with team members and other scientists. A person with a poor communication skill, both written and verbal can not do this effectively. Thus, good communication skill is pertinent.
Biochemists need to be thorough in their research and in their approach to problems. Scientific research involves a lot of trial and error, and biochemists must not become discouraged in their work.
5. Interpersonal skills
Biochemists basically work in research teams and need to work well with others toward a common goal. Sometimes, many serve as team leaders and must be able to motivate and direct other team members with a discord.
6. Mathematics skills
Mathematics skill is a necessity in typically every field in existence. Biochemistry is not an exception.
Biochemists use complex equations and formulas regularly in their daily work. They also need a broad understanding of mathematics, including statistics and calculus.
7. Time-management skills
Biochemists usually need to meet deadlines when conducting research. They must be able to manage time.
Having gotten basic information about the field, below are ways to become a Biochemist.
One can become a Biochemist through various means such as:
- On the Job training.
The common and most acceptable way to become a Biochemist is through the University. Here, the student must meet up with the necessary entry requirements in order to acquire a desired degree in Biochemistry. The various degrees to be acquired from a University are Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees respectively.
- To become a Biochemist through university means, you’ll usually need:
- 5 GCSEs at grades A to C, or equivalent, including English, maths and science
- 3 A levels, or equivalent, including biology and chemistry
- A degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study.
How Long Does It Take To Complete A Biochemistry Program In The University?
Many schools offer bachelors, masters, and doctoral degree programs in Biochemistry.
A bachelor’s degree can be obtained in four years though a number of schools require an additional year of study specifically in the area of laboratory techniques. In cases like this, the bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry can be obtained in 5 years.
A Biochemistry master’s degree typically takes between two and three years, while earning a doctoral degree usually takes four to six years.
However, most doctoral degree programs include two to three years of advanced study in areas such as stem cell research, genetics, bioethics, etc.
Earn A Bachelor’s Degree
The first unavoidable way to become a Biochemist through a university is to get a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor’s degree programs in biochemistry get concepts from both biology and chemistry. In addition to a general science foundation from college, you’re likely to have several levels of courses and labs in organic and analytical chemistry, including, Physics, calculus and cell biology are other subjects in many curricula. More so, you will have to conclude with a research project during the final year of the programme.
Some universities offer a one year post-graduate training program in laboratory techniques, which is highly valued by many private companies. Some will let you work towards a bachelor’s degree and a microbiology-related certificate at the same time.
Graduate study usually involves a lot of laboratory work, and allows you to specialize in a particular area like molecular biology or bioinformatics. Those with bachelor’s degrees may qualify for some entry-level positions, most biochemists earn advanced degrees.
Get A Doctoral Degree
This may not be compulsory for all but it is important for career advancement in Biochemistry.
Doctoral programs take a duration of five years to complete. If you want to conduct independent research or hold an administrative position, you’ll need a doctoral degree in biochemistry. This is because doctoral programs are research-intensive.
In the first two years, the outlines are usually structured around a set of advanced core courses and a selection of specialized lectures. In the third year, you can begin researching and writing a dissertation on an original topic in biochemistry.
Ph.D. programs usually include two years of advanced coursework in topics such as genetics, toxicology, and proteomics. Most new PhD graduates start out in postdoctoral research positions. These positions can lead to publication, which is very crucial to landing a permanent research position.
2. GET A TRAINING
Another way to become a Biochemist is through an on-the-job training. An internship can give you an opportunity to gain experience working in a lab or other research setting. This will also give you the opportunity to make contacts with industry professionals. During this period, you will work with experienced scientists. This will enable you to learn about their specialties and develop a broader understanding of related areas of research.
As an intern, your duties may include culturing cells, testing drugs or generating protein extracts. In some cases, schools help arrange internships outside of degree requirements. Internship positions usually occur as part-time during the school year. On the other hand they could extend to full-time work during holidays.
EMPLOYERS/CAREER OPPORTUNITIES FOR BIOCHEMISTS
Biochemistry graduates are employed in numerous industries such as health, agriculture and environment. Opportunities exist in public health laboratories. Major employers include pharmaceutical, food, water, biotechnology and agricultural companies. Small companies employ biochemists to provide specialist services, such as toxicological studies.
Other employers include scientific and medical publishers and the Intellectual Property Office.You can also use your biochemistry skills and knowledge in areas such as sales and marketing, where you could be selling the latest technology and law firms dealing with scientific cases.
Upon becoming a Biochemist, there are many career opportunities for you. They include:
- Biomedical scientist
- Analytical chemist
- Clinical scientist, biochemistry
- Forensic scientist
- Clinical research associate
- Academic researcher
- Medicinal chemist
- Physician associate
- Scientific laboratory technician
- Research scientist
- Lecturer in an Educational institution
One of the job opportunities you have as a Biochemist is in the field of biotechnology.
Biotechnologists use biological organisms to develop or make innovative products designed to improve health, food and the environment as a whole.
As a biotechnologist you’ll study the genetic, chemical and physical attributes of tissues, cells and organisms in order to develop new technologies and products that will improve the quality of life.
The role involves manipulating living organisms or their components to design or enhance vaccines, medicines, energy efficiency or food productivity and safety.
A biotechnologist can be referred to as laboratory technician, research assistant, flow technologist or bioprocessing engineer.
As an analytical chemist, you’ll use a range of methods to investigate the chemical composition of substances, with the aim of identifying and understanding the substance and how it behaves in different conditions. Depending on the work environment, the job roles may vary.
In the pharmaceutical industry, you would be involved in the drug development process. This usually entails studying the physical and chemical properties of drug compositions, with a view to determine the quality and stability of drugs.
As an analytical chemist, you can work in areas diverse areas such as:
- product validation
- drug formulation and development
- process development
- quality control, etc.
Becoming a biochemist is not so difficult as seen in the article.
One way as stated above is by going through the University which is the most acceptable and recognized means. Becoming a Biochemist by going to the university gives you the opportunity to graduate with various degrees such as Bachelor’s degree, Master’s and Doctoral degree. It all depends on choice.
Each degree has an advantage over the other. The higher the degree, the higher the job position, roles and salary. Therefore, if you must advance in this field using a university degree, you should also consider obtaining a degree beyond Bachelor’s degree.
Most Ph.D. holders in biochemistry have bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry or a related field, such as biology, chemistry, physics, or engineering.
Students in bachelor’s degree programs in biochemistry or a related field typically take courses in mathematics, physics, and computer science in addition to courses in the biological and chemical sciences. Courses in mathematics and computer science are important for biochemists who must be able to do complex data analysis.
Most bachelor’s degree programs include required laboratory coursework. Additional laboratory coursework is excellent preparation for graduate school or for getting an entry-level position in industry. Students can gain valuable laboratory experience by working for a university’s laboratories.
On the other hand, you can also become a Biochemist through an on-the-job training. This is an informal way to become a Biochemist. This way, you will be opportuned to work closely with experts in the field. This will enable you to gain practical knowledge and understanding of what the field is all about. In most cases, people who started off through informal training tend to advance later on by obtaining a degree in the University.
You can become a Biochemist through any means. The important thing is to become an expert in the field. The choice you make, however, determines your chances of advancing in the field with good earnings.
By going to the university to become a Biochemist, chances are that you will spend more. The good thing is that you will spend more to earn more.