You might have found this site because you’re studying for a biochemistry course, preparing to take one, or are simply curious. Perhaps you’re preparing for a standardized test like the MCAT. Whatever brought you here, you’re curious about biochemistry.
So, what is biochemistry, exactly? Why does it matter? What makes it different?
In this introductory module, we’ll take a look at what the field of biochemistry encompasses, why it matters, and look at some practical applications for the biochemical knowledge you’ll be learning.
What is biochemistry?
Biochemistry is a discipline that bridges biology and chemistry: it studies biological and chemical reactions of living organisms at the cellular and molecular level. Put more simply, biochemistry is the chemistry of the living world.
Biochemistry studies what happens inside the cells of plants and animals (including human beings), and examines how cells communicate with each other. By studying the structures and functions of biomolecules (like carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids), biochemists are able to predict how molecules will interact and figure out exactly how living organisms interact, operate, survive, and die.
What does biochemistry allow us to do? What makes it useful?
It turns out that all living organisms (from bacteria to leopards) share a good deal in common at the molecular level. This concept is often called the unity of biochemistry. When we investigate the mechanisms of molecules and molecular constituents common to all life forms, we can witness the common rules that govern all living creatures.
The findings of biochemistry are applicable in a range of fields and industries, including:
What differentiates biochemistry from other branches of science?
Biochemistry is closely related to organic chemistry (which is the study of compounds containing carbon). Since all life on earth is carbon-based, the molecules studied in biochemistry are all organic (i.e. all contain carbon atoms). However, biochemistry also incorporates the study of molecular biology and some physics in order to fully understand biochemical processes.
Biochemistry is unique because it combines insights and knowledge from various branches of science in order to study commonalities between the functions of living cells of all types of organisms.
Biochemistry is particularly important in the study of medicine, as it helps us understand the causes (and potential cures) for diseases. (Since this site is written to help students get a basic grasp of biochemistry to help prepare for the MCAT, most examples used in these learning modules will apply to the study of the human body, rather than plants or animal cells.)
Want to know more? Try this introductory lecture on biochemistry from Lecturio.