Biochemistry is a complex subject that is studied by thousands of students across the globe. You might be taking it in college because you’re interested in it or need it to get into medical school. There’s also the chance you’re reviewing it for your Step 1 USMLE exam on your path to becoming a physician.
Regardless of when or why you’re doing it, biochemistry can be a tough subject to learn. A lot of it wasn’t encountered in school or other subjects.
What Does Biochemistry Mean?
The term “bio” means life. Biochemistry is the study of chemistry and physico-chemical processes that occur in living organisms. The study of biochemistry is related to metabolism, nutrients, and how chemistry affects the lives of all living organisms on a molecular level.
It’s a very interesting topic to study because you get to find out things like how energy is made or where we get it from. There are many similarities between the biochemical reactions in humans (or animals in general) and unicellular organisms like bacteria, but there are glaring differences as well.
Understanding these similarities and differences has helped humanity and science grow. For example, antibiotics that target certain biochemical reactions are used to treat infections.
How Hard is Biochemistry?
The difficulty of biochemistry lies in the fact that it’s completely new to many students. Terms like anaerobic glycolysis, Kreb’s cycle, and oxidative phosphorylation are encountered for the first time when a person studies biochemistry.
These topics may have been brushed briefly in school, but taking biochemistry as a course is a lot more complex. New terms like the Km and Vmax of enzymes can make things even more frustrating.
To conquer biochemistry, you need to take a deep breath and realize that you’ll have to give it time and effort. Trying to find out how to cram biochemistry is only a good idea if you’ve been over the material before. Cramming the subject for the first time in a few hours or a couple of days isn’t the best idea.
What Do All These Terms Mean?
- What is PIP? PIP is short for phosphatidylinositol phosphate. It’s a lipid (fat) present in the cell membranes of different cells. PIP and its different forms play a role in cell signaling. They can activate other substances thereby initiating a cascade leading to changes in a cell’s functions.
- What is pI in biochemistry? pI is the value of pH where a molecule has no electrical charge. It is also known as the isoelectric point.
- What is Ki? Ki, also known as the inhibitor constant, indicates how potent an inhibitor of an enzyme is.
- What does Km mean? Km is the concentration of substrate required for an enzyme to work at half of its maximum velocity.
- What is Vmax? Vmax is the maximum velocity or speed at which an enzyme can work. Once an enzyme reaches Vmax, adding more substrate won’t have an impact on the reaction rate.
- What is a motif in biochemistry? A motif is a structured made from amino acids with biological significance.
- How are biochemistry and metabolism related? Metabolism is based on biochemical processes. The creation and breakdown of ATP and energy all rely on biochemical reactions. Some of these reactions also release heat.
How to Study for Biochemistry
Many students complain about not being able to study for their biochemistry exams. If you’re interested in learning how to succeed in biochemistry class, you need to learn to see things differently
- Focus on the bigger picture. Understand the purpose of anaerobic glycolysis for example before getting stuck on the details. Knowing the reason a process happens will make the details seem more logical. This is one of the best ways on how to memorize biochemistry pathways.
- Understand the terms and nomenclature. You won’t get very far in the curriculum if you have to keep going back to see what each term means. Familiarizing yourself with the nomenclature can help you in acing biochemistry.
- Cramming biochemistry isn’t the way to go. Be prepared to put in the time.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for biochemistry help. Hiring a tutor or joining an online course can simplify things and make learning easier.
- Relate biochemical reactions and ideas to practical uses in science and medicine.
The above tips will be useful for everyone, but if you’re trying to find out how to study for biochemistry in medical school, you might want to do things a bit differently.
In medical school, you won’t have time to go into the intricate details of the subject. Focus on what’s relevant to medicine. If you don’t know how to identify valuable information, lots of tutors and courses can help.
The topics you’ll be tested on in medical school will almost always relate to your career. Things like how antibiotics affect biochemical reactions and diseases that occur when an enzyme is missing are vital.
What Can I Do with a Degree in Biochemistry?
A biochemistry degree is valuable and opens the door to many jobs. Most are related to research and teaching. You can also decide to pursue a career in medicine later and join medical school.
Having a degree in biochemistry can make one of the toughest subjects in med school seem like nothing to you. While others struggle, you can quickly review it and pay more attention to other important basic sciences like physiology and pharmacology.
Research jobs you can get with a degree in biochemistry:
- Biomedical assistant
- Clinical research associate
- Analytical chemist
- Healthcare scientist
- Scientific lab technician
You can also pursue a career in teaching and academics. Teaching science in elementary or middle school would be within your capabilities. Additionally, you might decide on advancing your studies and becoming a college professor.
Biochemistry increases our understanding of how things happen. It tells us why we can’t sprint for long periods of time or how our body copes with fasting. It also allows those with biochemistry degrees to work in several fields.
While it might seem difficult at first, with persistence and time, and maybe even the help of a tutor, biochemistry can become one of your favorite subjects.