Small things making a big difference
What is biochemistry?
Biochemistry explores chemical processes within living organisms to understand and solve biological problems. Biochemistry combines concepts and techniques from chemistry and the life sciences to study the structure, behaviour, and interactions of complex molecules found in biological samples. The study of the chemistry behind biological processes and the synthesis of biologically active molecules are examples of biochemistry. Those in the field of biochemistry examine chemical reactions to build a strong foundational understanding of how all biochemical processes interact. The knowledge of all the chemical processes within the context of a human body provides the bases for advancements in the field of medicine and biotechnology. Biochemistry includes many sub-specialties such as clinical biochemistry, molecular genetics, biochemical pharmacology, and immunochemistry.
HOW DOES BIOCHEMISTRY RELATE TO CANCER RESEARCH?
Biochemistry is both a life science and chemical science; it explores chemical processes within living organisms to understand and solve biological problems. Biochemistry combines concepts and techniques from chemistry and the life sciences to study the structure, behaviour, and interactions of complex molecules found in biological samples. Examples of biochemistry include the study of the chemistry behind biological processes and how biochemical molecules are used and constructed. Biochemistry is critical in cancer research since abnormalities in biochemical pathways underlie hallmarks of cancer.
What does a biochemist do? What does it take to be a biochemist?
On a daily basis, biochemists study the chemical and physical principles of living things, such as biological processes such as cells reproductive capacity, development, heredity, and disease. Biochemists may also conduct research projects, manage laboratory teams, publish research findings, and present these findings to scientists and other interested parties at conferences. Alternatively, biochemists may work in a variety of career settings, such as manufacturing energy development or environmental restoration firms. A biochemist may choose to work in a hospital laboratory or work within a faculty as research staff, or as a teacher at the university, college, or secondary school level. Becoming a biochemist is not easy but not impossible either! Typically, the minimum education requirement for a biochemist is a university undergraduate degree, although most positions require the completion of graduate studies to earn a Master’s or PhD degree. Once you are a biochemist, you can look forward to performing tasks such as chemical analyses using sophisticated lab apparatus, conduct literature reviews, and design experiments to test theories.
WHAT JOBS IN BIOCHEMISTRY CAN YOU PURSUE IF YOU’RE INTERESTED IN CANCER RESEARCH?
There are a number of careers in the field of biochemistry that relate to cancer research. Take a look at our blog posts about:
- Structural and molecular biochemistry
- Analytical biochemistry
- Clinical biochemistry and translational research
WHERE IS THE FIELD OF BIOCHEMISTRY HEADING?
One exciting direction in the field of biochemistry is the recent emphasis on computational biochemistry: a rapidly growing field that allows biochemists to study biological issues from a broader perspective. The ability to extrapolate information from big data—that is, large volumes of data—reveals insight into biochemical pathways and relationships that may not have been obvious before. Biotechnology is also helping to advance the field of biochemistry by providing novel products that can be utilized to further research or make it more efficient. Recent examples include CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing techniques that have the ability to cut and paste DNA efficiently, allowing genes to be easily disrupted, introduced, or changed.
Meet our LET’S tALK biochemistry editors
Lara Gerhardt is an MSc Candidate at Western University in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. Lara’s research is focused on uncovering how tumour reactive T-cells express certain molecules and subsequent effects on anti-tumour immune responses.
Seung (Joon) Kim completed his undergraduate degree in biochemistry in 2016 at Western University. Under Dr. Fred Dick’s supervision at Victoria Research Labs, his doctoral research investigates the role of repetitive DNA sequences on tumourigenesis and immune activation using NGS, targeted mutant and knock-out animal models. His project may inform the use of epigenetic drugs in clinical trials to adjuvant immunotherapy.