A biochemist studies the chemical principals of living things, as well as the processes that help living things to live. They lead a laboratory or work with a team of assistants and technicians to conduct experiments that help them learn about living things.
They may study animal biology, cell development, diseases, or other areas of biology.
Biophysicists are similar scientists, but they focus on physical principles.
- As you move up, you are able to study the things that really interest you.
- Biochemists play important roles in new technologies that benefit many people and places.
- There is always new information to learn and explore – new discoveries lead to new questions!
- Most of your co-workers are dedicated to your work, which creates strong teamwork and a good work environment
These scientists work in an office and laboratory setting. This is typically a full-time position with a Monday-Friday work schedule. You may work more hours if meeting deadlines, or if an experiment is time-sensitive.
They use technology such as computer modeling to analyze living things and their components. This might be DNA or proteins that help keep bodies healthy.
- Create and lead experiments in the lab.
- Read work done by other scientists, so you are knowledgeable about trends in your field.
- Write grants for funding, or support a grant writer in your organization.
- Write reports and papers about your experiments and submit to publishers.
- Use experiments to learn more about DNA, drug uses, creating synthetic compounds, or other biological questions.
There are two main fields of both Biochemistry and Biophysics: Basic Research and Applied Research.
Basic Research is concerned with learning for learning’s sake. They want to improve the level of knowledge humans have. These scientists will often work for public universities or colleges. The questions being answered by the research are created by the scientist.
Applied Research answers specific questions. It is often used to produce products. These can help a farmer with their crops, a new treatment for a disease, or even finding faster ways to create biofuels – fuel made from plants. The questions the scientist is trying to answer is assigned by a company or other private entity.
- Able to communicate orally, but more emphasis on written communication
- Logical reasoning – able to figure an answer out by using available data, without being told a specific answer.
- Creativity – able to look at problems in new ways.
- Active learning and a strong desire to learn more
- Strong questioning skills
- Strong computer skills – scientific software and graphic imaging software such as Adobe Photoshop
- Database and spreadsheet knowledge
- Intermediate computer programming skills are needed – Python and Perl
- Pharmaceutical/Medical Manufacturing
- Colleges/Universities or other school settings
- Technical Consulting Services – Helping companies sell their products
Becoming a biochemist means earning a Ph.D. This means you will be in school for six years before you even start your Ph.D.! Doctorate programs for biochemistry take four to six years. This means you could attend school for almost twelve years.
After earning your doctorate, it will likely take you up to two years before you find a permanent job. You will need to work and support your education during this time – it can take almost 14 years to become a Biochemist.
- As a science, Biochemistry is always evolving. Some trends evolving:
- Using 3D modelling to explore DNA and organisms
- Identifying gene therapies for disease and other health problems
- Exploring biological based solutions for environmental problems.
- Exploring anatomy and the inner workings of organisms
- Biochemists often loved science classes as kids
- Asking a lot of questions about everything – especially “How?” and “Why?” questions.
- Bachelor’s – Biology, or similar science. Many Universities offer Biochemistry as a major.
- Make sure your classes include lots of laboratory work
- Master’s in Biochemistry
- Ph. D (Doctorate) in Biochemistry – this will include lab research, teaching undergrad students, and writing a dissertation on what you learned in the program.
- Quiz Bowl or other Academic Clubs
- Science classes such as chemistry and biology
- Gain lab experience, either through classes or an internship.
Biochemistry is a field that rewards graduates who have demonstrated an understanding of lab work and how it can benefit the field. During your long years at school, you will build up a portfolio of experience, including your Master’s Thesis and Ph. D. Dissertation. You will also build connections and network with other scientists.
After the long years of school, most Biochemists are easily able to find a position in a laboratory. You may need to work for a lead scientist for a few years or in an area of study you are not excited about. However, this experience will keep you working until you find the specific field you would like to work in.
- American Chemical Society
- American Association for the Advancement of Science
- American Society for Cell Biology
- American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
- American Institute of Biological Sciences
- Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
- Nature Journal
- Environmental Chemist
- Chemical Safety Engineer
- Lab Technician
- Research Associate
- Technical Sales – Helping develop and sell specific products
- Wildlife Biologist
Ph. D (Doctor of Biochemistry)
- College/University Teacher or Professor
- Scientist in similar field such as Forensics or Agriculture
- Biomedical Engineer – Developing research into useful equipment
- Natural Science Manager – supervising the work of a group of scientists
Biochemistry (and Biophysics) is a very challenging career. There are many years of school to work through, and the classes are often difficult. However, you are able to find a similar career after your Bachelor’s degree. You may find a need to take a break from school for a few years between degrees.
However, people who complete this career path and obtain their Doctorate are able to help many people with their research. There is a strong sense of pride linked to completing such challenging coursework, and they are able to work daily exploring questions they are passionate about.