What does a Biochemist do?
Biochemists 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 substances such as drugs, hormones, and food on tissues and biological processes
- Prepare technical reports, research papers, and recommendations based on their research
- Present research findings to scientists, engineers, and other colleagues.
Biochemists 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. They 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.
Biochemists 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. 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. They also develop new drugs and medications, such as those used to treat cancer or Alzheimer’s disease.
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.
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