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What is Biological Chemistry?

By Dorothy Distefano
Updated: Feb 27, 2024

Biological chemistry, or biochemistry, is the study of the chemical composition of living organisms at a cellular level. Included in this field of study are the structure of biological entities, the chemical properties of living organisms, and the changes in living cells caused by chemistry. It is a combination of life sciences and chemical sciences.

Someone seeking a career in biological chemistry will usually need at least a bachelor’s degree. With a bachelor’s degree, an individual can qualify for a job as a science teacher at the high school level, a research assistant, laboratory technician, or a scientist in a testing environment. Graduates may continue to study biological chemistry or proceed with graduate education in a healthcare setting or other profession.

Advanced degrees generally open more doors for biochemists. Master’s degree holders are qualified to work on simple research projects, among other jobs. Doctorate degrees qualify scientists to conduct independent research, teach college level courses, and perform administrative duties.

Biochemistry plays a vital role in many industries. Pharmaceutical companies use biochemists to study disease and formulate drugs to treat and/or cure illness. The biochemist’s comprehensive knowledge of chemicals at the molecular level is critical to understanding the relationships between a disease and possible drug treatments.

Biological chemistry is also significant in the industry of agriculture. It provides the basis for boosting the nutrient values of foods. Scientists also use biochemical science to develop methods for making plants insect and disease resistant. There are many uses for this science in the development of ingredients to preserve foods.

Forensic science relies heavily on biochemistry. Scientists working in a forensic capacity use their specialized knowledge to assist in criminal investigations. Analysis of evidence, such as deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing, is often vital to identifying and prosecuting a criminal.

In a hospital setting, biochemistry tests assist in diagnosing disease. Analysis of kidney stones, various enzymes, and disease indicators aid doctors with the evaluation of a patient's condition, as well as its treatment. Vitamin levels may be assessed in relation to symptoms so that health care providers have all relevant data for treatment.

Given that biological chemistry is the study of the effects of chemistry on living things at a cellular level, applications in cancer research are numerous. Cancer is the abnormal division and growth of cells. Examination of the biochemistry of the cells in question as well as the effect of various treatments upon those cells helps researchers develop increasingly effective treatments.

Biological chemistry is essential to the understanding of living organisms in many settings. This field of science continues to evolve as technology advances, continually offering new applications. Sub-specialties such as biotechnology, neurochemistry, and genetics all benefit from the advances made possible by this evolving science.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By eduguy1313 — On May 25, 2011

@UpnDown - Yeah! There are lots of really cutting-edge things going on in this field. Did you know that viruses are technically not even living creatures! Look it up, it's really interesting.

By UpnDown — On May 24, 2011

Another great area within organic biological chemistry is viral studies and their potential for curing diseases. I recently read an article in a biological chemistry journal about the use of viruses as a tool to modify our genes!

I remember bits and pieces of this from my college biology courses, but the article was fascinating.

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