What is a Biochemist?

Are you interested in being one of the people that develop new drugs and medications, such as those used to treat cancer or Alzheimer’s disease? Consider a career as a biochemist!

A biochemist studies the chemical and physical principles of living things and of biological processes such as cell development, growth, and heredity. Biochemists who do applied research develop products and processes that improve our lives. For example, in medicine, biochemists and biophysicists develop tests used to detect diseases, genetic disorders, and other illnesses.

What does a Biochemist do?

Biochemists work in basic and applied research. Basic research is conducted without any immediately known application; the goal is simply to expand human knowledge. Applied research is directed toward solving a particular problem.

Woman in lab using a microscope.

A biochemist involved in basic research may study the genetic mutations in organisms that lead to cancer and other diseases. Others may study the evolution of plants and animals to understand how genetic traits are carried through successive generations.

Applied research in biochemistry and biophysics has many uses outside of medicine. In agriculture, biochemists develop genetically engineered crops that are more resistant to drought, disease, insects, and other afflictions. Biochemists also develop alternative fuels, such as biofuels - renewable energy sources from plants. In addition, they develop ways to protect the environment and clean up pollution.

A biochemist will typically do the following:

  • Plan and conduct complex projects in basic and applied research
  • Manage laboratory teams and monitor the quality of their work
  • Isolate, analyze, and synthesize proteins, enzymes, DNA, and other molecules
  • Research the effects of drugs, hormones, and food on tissues and biological processes
  • Prepare technical reports, research papers, and recommendations based on research
  • Present findings to scientists, engineers, and other colleagues

A biochemist will also use electron microscopes, lasers, and other laboratory instruments and equipment to carry out their research. They use advanced technologies to conduct scientific experiments and analysis.

For example, they use computer modeling software to determine the three-dimensional structures of proteins and other molecules. Those involved in biotechnology research use chemical enzymes to synthesize recombinant DNA.

Most biochemists work on research teams. Research projects are often interdisciplinary, and biochemists frequently work with experts in other fields, such as physics, chemistry, computer science, and engineering.

Are you suited to be a biochemist?

Biochemists have distinct personalities. They tend to be investigative individuals, which means they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive. They are curious, methodical, rational, analytical, and logical. Some of them are also artistic, meaning they’re creative, intuitive, sensitive, articulate, and expressive.

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What is the workplace of a Biochemist like?

Biochemists typically work in laboratories and offices to conduct experiments and analyze the results. Those who work with dangerous organisms or toxic substances in the laboratory must follow safety procedures to avoid contamination.

Some biochemists move into managerial positions, often as natural sciences managers. Those who pursue management careers spend much of their time on administrative tasks, such as preparing budgets and schedules.

Biochemists are also known as:
Biological Chemist Biochemistry Scientist