biochemist n : someone with special training in biochemistry
Typical biochemists study chemical processes and chemical transformations in living organisms. The prefix of "bio" in "biochemist" can be understood as a fusion of "biological chemist."
RoleThe most common "industry" role is to develop biochemical products and processes. This can be done by conducting in vitro research, analysis, synthesis and experimentation. Identifying substances' chemical and physical properties in biological systems is of great importance, and can be carried out by doing various types of analysis'. Biochemists must also prepare technical reports after collecting, analyzing and summarizing the information and trends found.
In biochemistry, researchers often break down complicated biological systems into its component parts. About 75% work in either basic or applied research; those in applied research take the fruits of basic research and employ them for the benefit of medicine, agriculture, veterinary science, environmental science, and manufacturing. Each of these fields offers safe harbor for the biochemist in search of a specialty, with clinical biochemists, for example, working in hospital laboratories and studying various tissues and body fluids to help them understand and treat diseases; and industrial biochemists, for another, involved in analytical research work such as checking the purity of food and beverages.
Research biochemists find work in the labs of biotechnology companies; agricultural, medical, and veterinary institutes; and, in the case of half of all biochemists, universities. They study chemical reactions in metabolism, growth, reproduction, and heredity and apply techniques drawn from biotechnology and genetic engineering to help them in their research.
The workday usually includes some laboratory duties, such as culturing, filtering, purifying, drying, weighing, and measuring substances using special instruments. Research goes to the study the effects of foods, drugs, allergens and other substances on living tissues. Many biochemists are also interested in molecular biology, the study of life at the molecular level and the study of genes and gene expression. In the lab, biochemists need to have experience working around diverse liquid and gaseous chemicals and must know to take appropriate precautionary measures. The word "chemistry" is in biochemistry because of the molecular focus of biochemistry. Understanding biochemistry requires good understanding of organic and inorganic chemistry.
TrainingA degree in biochemistry or a related science such as chemistry is the minimum requirement for any work in this field. This is sufficient for a position as a technical assistant in industry or in academic settings. A Ph.D. (or equivalent) is generally required to pursue or direct independent research. To advance further in commercial environments, one may need to acquire skills in management.
In college, students take many biology and chemistry classes in addition to the required calculus, physics, and other core classes. Basic classes in biology including (but not limited to) microbiology, molecular biology, molecular genetics, cell biology, and genomics are focused on. All types of chemistry are required with emphasis on biochemistry and organic chemistry.
Biochemistry is a highly demanding and difficult field. Because of the amount of research done, even at the undergraduate level, biochemistry is not usually recommended to those actively participating in sports or other extracurricular activities.
EmploymentThe most common area of employment for biochemists is in the life sciences field where biochemists frequently work in the pharmaceutical/biotechnology industry. In this field biochemists would primarily be performing research and development. With a B.S. one would initially be working as a lab assistant with limited other options. With a master's degree one would be able to pursue independent research. Typically, a Ph.D is required to perform higher level research or lead a research team. Senior researchers commonly travel to conferences and seminars as part of their work. The current national average salary for a biochemist (B.S, M.A., and Ph.D.) is approximately $75,000 per year. In some areas this average may be as high as $100,000+. Academia is also a promising avenue for biochemists. As principal investigators at an academic institution, biochemists can pursue their own research agenda. It is not uncommon for biochemists in academia to also be involved with their own biochemistry start-up companies. Biochemists in academia are also involved with teaching undergraduates, training graduate students and collaborating with post-doctoral fellows. Biochemistry in academia, despite its perks, is an extremely competitive career and the pressure to publish is high. Approximately 50% of biochemists work in academia or work alongside of those in academia.
Because of a biochemists' background in both biology and chemistry, there are many other employment areas such as medical, industrial, governmental and environmental fields. The field of medicine offers related careers such as nutrition, genetics, biophysics and pharmacology; industrial needs include everything from beverage and food technology to toxicology and vaccine production; while governmental and environmental fields require biochemists to work on everything from forensic science and wildlife management to marine biology and viticulture. This incredibly wide range makes biochemistry an extremely flexible career choice
- Job guide for New South Wales & Australian Capital Territory, 2005
biochemist in Hebrew: ביוכימאי
biochemist in Russian: Биохимик