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Chemical Romance: Biochemistry at UCS

Friday, May 5, 2017

If you're thinking about studying Biochemistry, and are interested in University Centre Shrewsbury, read on to find out from our Programme Leader for Biochemistry, Chris Sharp, what top tips he can offer when considering a career in the industry.

"So, you are interested in understanding how things work at the chemical level in the biological world and you are considering studying for a degree in Biochemistry?

We’ll, having come this far you’ll already be aware that Biochemistry - the branch of science that explores the chemistry of biological systems - is a rapidly expanding science at the interface of chemistry and biology. Biochemistry actually encompasses topics that include molecular biology, genetics and structural biology to mention but a few.

Living organisms, even the simplest life forms, are very complicated. Some students find Biochemistry complicated and it very often is, but this is the fascination of the subject. Finding out how things work at the chemical level in the living world isn’t simple!

Therefore, before embarking on such a programme, here are my top tips on what you’re going to need to enjoy and succeed in the brave new world of Biochemistry.

1. You must have a real interest and enthusiasm for the subject. There are many concepts that you will need to understand as you progress through the programme, and so this interest will help you to gain the necessary knowledge to truly understand the subject and to follow your own independent research in this area.

2. You must have a love for science, and in particular the biological sciences. Although your degree will be in Biochemistry you will encounter and study many different but interrelated subjects along the way, and so a general interest in biological sciences is very important.

3. If you enjoy a challenge, you’re onto something. Biochemistry programmes cover a lot of ground and many of the topics will be new to you. Understanding difficult concepts and applying them to solve problems in the living world will present a learning challenge.

4. If you enjoy collaborating with fellow learners – great! An important aspect of the courses that make up the Biochemistry programme is examining case studies. This enables and facilitates both group learning and discussion of a topic in an informed manner.

5. You must enjoy undertaking practical work in a laboratory. This can be exciting (particularly when doing independent research), but experiments, for one reason or another, don’t always give you the results you were expecting - and this can be frustrating at times. You have to have the patience and resilience to work in a laboratory environment, no matter the knockbacks.

At University Centre Shrewsbury our Biochemistry programme offers a comprehensive grounding in the life sciences. Your introduction to Biochemistry comes as a course called “The Molecules of Life”. Over Year 1 we introduce you to the chemistry of the building blocks of life, nucleic acids, proteins, fats and sugars. This is accompanied by other introductory courses that include genetics, cell biology, anatomy and physiology, immunology, microbiology and evolution, all with integrated laboratory-based practical sessions. These give you a thorough background in the life sciences that, in Year 2, is applied to the study of metabolism and the synthetic and degradative process in cells and organisms. In Year 3, we look at specific topics of interest. Our programmes also enable students to carry out practical laboratory work, so that they can become familiar with scientific equipment and basic laboratory techniques.

Careers in Biochemistry and the life sciences are numerous. Apart from becoming a basic or clinical researcher there are many opportunities in interdisciplinary fields in the public (government departments, NHS etc.,) and private (biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries) sectors. Graduates with a science degree are in increasing demand as our economy becomes more knowledge and skills based and employers appreciate that science graduates come with necessary critical thinking and research skills and make excellent employees. You will also have a good base for postgraduate study which may take you in a different direction but will require all the skills gained studying for your first degree.

If you are interested in studying Biochemistry at University Centre Shrewsbury then come along to our Open Evening on Thursday 8th June where my colleagues and I will be able to answer your questions and give you a flavour of the course.

To further investigate the field of Biochemistry, what biochemists do and who employs them, you may find the World of Biochemistry and the Prospects websites useful."

Chris Sharp, Programme Leader for Biochemistry