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Biochemistry explores the chemical processes of life

Biochemistry is the branch of science that explores the chemical processes of living organisms.
Biochemistry is the branch of science that explores the chemical processes of living organisms. The subject brings together biology and chemistry, but it is much more than a simple meeting of these two sciences. Biochemistry focuses on processes that occur at a molecular level, with a particular interest in understanding how these work inside cells, studying components like nucleic acids, such as DNA and messenger RNA, proteins, small molecules and their interactions. It also examines how cells communicate with each other and helps us understand how the structures of molecules relate to their functions, allowing us to predict how molecules will interact and contribute to the functions of cells.
It can show us how complex cellular processes are assembled in cells (and their organelles) and tissues. This knowledge can also lead us to applied biochemistry and it is here that we are most aware of the outcomes for humans. Biochemistry is an active and modern science that covers diverse fields of scientific research, providing the foundations for many other scientific disciplines and impacting upon almost every aspect of our lives. For example, a biochemist might focus on decoding the genetic information in DNA, identifying specific genes and characterising the proteins they code for, and in this way, they advance genetics and protein chemistry with huge potential benefits for medicine perhaps leading to drugs that can be made to target genes or their products.
Another biochemist might study disruptions in metabolic pathways that can lead to disease, leading to more effective, targeted treatment. So, Biochemistry informs pharmacological research that results in new and improved medicines. Most biochemists will have studied the subject at university, but that is not absolutely necessary. You can learn biochemistry skills and expertise as part of a job in a relevant industry or in a research institute. Biochemical skills and knowledge are also gained by training outside higher education this approach is particularly relevant in, for example, medicine or health sciences. However, most biochemists obtain their first training in the subject at an institute of higher education.
Many universities around the world teach courses that involve biochemistry in an active research environment, where biochemists are leading research teams. All courses will cover the basic details that are highlighted in this MOOC, such as the metabolic pathways that exist in all cells. But the subject is so broad that different universities will necessarily specialize, often linking to their research strengths.
Degree level Biochemistry is taught in different ways: some universities will have specific departments of Biochemistry while others deliver the subject via experts in their departments of Biology and Chemistry. Some courses will be quite specific in the topics they teach; others will be more flexible, offering opportunities for students to follow a course that is more biology-focused, more chemistry-focused or split equally across the two main disciplines.
Each approach to gaining a training in biochemistry brings with it its own benefits, and if you are planning to study biochemistry at university you should choose your course carefully after researching the university’s approach and thinking about the subjects that interest you most.
Although the exact way that a course is delivered will vary from one education establishment to another, by the end of a training in biochemistry you will: - understand how molecular structure influences the function of various types of biological molecules, cells and organisms - be able to explain how the principles of genetics and regulation of gene expression underpin many aspects of cellular and molecular biology - be skilled in a range relevant experimental techniques and how they are used, with practical experience of them - appreciate the complexities of cell metabolism, and the main metabolic pathways including the chemical and thermodynamic principles underlying biological catalysis There may be other routes to becoming a biochemist.
Apprenticeships, bring the advantage of earning a wage while working alongside experienced staff to gain biochemistry-specific skills. The time required for this type of approach is more variable, perhaps up to four years depending on the level of apprenticeship and the time committed to training. Those trained in biochemistry will have a wide and varied range of career options open to them. Some have clear links to biochemistry training and education, such as those that are research-focused (in industry, health services or research institutes) or in education where teachers who are biochemists are particularly valued due to their dual strengths in biology and chemistry teaching.
But biochemists can also make significant contributions to the broader job market, including science communication, sales and marketing, publishing, law or patent development, to name just a few. During this course you will meet biochemists who have gone on to have careers in these different areas.

Biochemistry is the branch of science that explores the chemical processes of living organisms. The subject brings together biology and chemistry, but it is more than a simple meeting of these two sciences and it has been a science discipline in its own right for over 100 years.

Biochemistry focuses on processes that occur at a molecular level and, as an active and contemporary subject, it covers diverse fields of scientific research that provide foundations for many other scientific disciplines. Biochemistry impacts upon almost every aspect of our lives, and in this step Richard and Jenny highlight a few areas where the subject has most direct relevance, for example in the health and life science. They also go on to identify the varied routes to training in biochemistry, and demonstrate that biochemists make significant contributions to a broad range of jobs and careers.

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Biochemistry: the Molecules of Life

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