What is Biochemistry- more of Biology or more of Chemistry

After your 10+2 examination, it is the time to choose your carrier path and you need to decide on a subject for your under graduation study. You need to choose a subject wisely, which you can fall in love with, has a good job perspective, a versatile curriculum and you can have a carrier that is fulfilling to your intellectual and curious mind and most importantly serves society in a way that no other profession can substitute it. Here I am going to suggest to you the subject Biochemistry.

Now before you sought ‘Eureka’ and jump into this Biochemical soup; let us understand what Biochemistry really is and what the carrier opportunities are for a student studying Biochemistry. First, let us understand if Biochemistry is more of chemistry or Biology or if both of them in equivalent. The subject Chemistry mostly deals with atoms and molecules, which are the constituents of our whole universe. Chemistry describes the different properties of every individual element in the periodic table, also describes how the atomic-level structure of those elements is responsible for these special characteristics. By doing so, it opens up new possibilities to design new materials and molecules with novel functions that have never existed in our universe or some improved version of the existing materials. Therefore, chemistry discovers the basic theories or rules of chemical science to invent new materials and molecules. These rules are followed by every element and chemical reaction in nature including all the living entities. The subject Biochemistry uses those rules to explain all the reactions and phenomena of the biological world.  Consider us, Humans, the way our eyes see light follows the basic rules of photochemistry, the way we breadth it follows basic chemical rules of diffusion and osmosis. All the metabolic reaction that generates energy, produces biomolecules, polymerization of DNA, RNA and proteins follow basic rules of chemical reactions. So, you may ask, is there anything special in Biochemistry or it is just that old chemistry in a new wrapper? Biochemistry deals with the structure and functions of bio-macromolecules, which are more complex than simple elementary chemistry. Biological reactions are remarkably accurate, specific (Stereospecific/regiospecific), and high yield. Moreover, all the reactions occur at 37 degrees centigrade with no scope of heating or cooling. Therefore, although the biochemical reactions are following basic elementary chemical principles, it uses sophisticated biological machinery (like ribosome to synthesize proteins, motor proteins for cellular transport and different enzymes for biochemical synthesis, etc) to make the reactions more efficient. The subject Biochemistry deals with these machinery to explain how it works and how malfunction of it can cause a deadly disease. The scope of biochemistry extends even further to identify or invent molecules that have medicinal properties to cure the disease.  So, therefore, the subject biochemistry has the equivalent amount of Biology and Chemistry and also includes small parts of Physics too. However, the curriculum for B. Sc Biochemistry includes associated subjects like Microbiology, Cell Biology, Biotechnology, Molecular biology, Recombinant DNA technology, Immunology, Human Physiology, Genetics, etc. So, as a whole, the course Biochemistry has little more Biology than Chemistry.

You might be wondering after you finished your B. Sc in Biochemistry, what are the jobs that are available to you.  Now a day, Indian bio-industries are growing like never before and everyone knows these names like Serum Institute of India, Bharat Biotech, and Biocon. These big bio-industries which produces vaccine, enzymes, antibody-based immunotherapy for cancer (Biologics), etc recruits Biochemistry undergraduates. All medicine companies like Dr. reddy’s laboratories, Cipla, Aurobindo Pharma, Lupin limited, etc recruit Biochemistry undergraduates as laboratory associates as well as medical representatives. Different food processing, breweries and bioprocess companies recruit Biochemistry undergraduates as quality control experts. Other than industry, you can appear for all those government jobs that require a bachelor’s degree.

However, the most interesting and intense carrier opportunity a Biochemistry undergraduate can have is pursuing higher study and research. There are different competitive examinations like National eligibility test (NET) and Graduate aptitude test for engineers (GATE) after you complete your M. Sc in Biochemistry to join a research lab as a PhD student in India. Alternatively, you can appear in Graduate Record Examination (GRE)/ Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and choose to go abroad (USA, Germany, Canada, UK, Singapore, etc) to pursue your PhD. The focus of research in Biochemistry lab all over the world are mainly to understand the molecular basis of life. The area like protein Biochemistry identifies and understands proteins and enzymes and characterizes the function and their role in a biochemical reaction. Structural Biology is the area to understand the three-dimensional structures of bio-machineries at atomic level resolution using sophisticated techniques like X-ray crystallography, cryo-electron microscopy and NMR. Researchers are also working on cell biology, cancer biology, synthetic biology/bio-printing, antibiotic resistance, drug discovery, Bioinformatics/computational biology, immunology/antibody engineering, Virology/vaccine development, Bioelectronics/Biosensor and many more interesting topics.      

Although we know a lot about basic chemistry that explains some of the most complex phenomena in the universe but unfortunately, we still do not know everything about ourselves and the biological systems around us. We need thousands of trained biochemists (like you would be) to solve the most challenging problems in biological science. Right now burning problems are antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria, the development of therapeutics for diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s, resolving unknowns about the human brain and its functions, etc.  We need biochemists to contribute to our current development of gene therapy techniques to cure diseases associated with congenital genetic disorders like Haemophilia, Muscular dystrophy, Thalassemia, and many more. You can also contribute to human sustainability in the era of environmental crisis by implementing genetic engineering to improve food production, recycling water using microorganisms, developing new ways to control heavy metal and plastic pollution, development of biofuel/Hydrogen/microbial fuel cells as an alternative to overcome fast depletion of natural fuel resources, etc.  Please keep in mind that the path of biological research is not smooth at all; you have to be prepared for continuous failure, unsuccessful experiments and plans, sleepless nights, irregular lunch and diners and many more. However, the role you are going to serve as a Biochemist for the benefit of humankind is unique and invaluable for the well-being of all of us.

biochemistry
Figure: The mechanism of inhibition of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase from SARS-CoV-2 by remdesivir have been discovered using cryo-electron microscopy technique which is associated with structural biology and students with a degree in Biochemistry can participate similar kind of research.

Why Computer Science?

“The Computer was born to solve the problem that did not exist before” – Bill Gates.

As a machine reduces the work effort, so does a computer for a typical complex computation. Computer science forces you to deal with a problem in a slightly different way which is a skill that can be applied to life itself. In the era of data, a computer is the most indispensable thing we can think of. Computer science gives you an opportunity in working and understanding hands-on the aspect of data.

Computer Science is the study of principles and the use of computers. The classical areas for a computer science course include discrete mathematics, data structure, theory of computation, compiler design, analysis and designing of Algorithm. The advanced study includes artificial intelligence (AI), computer networks and security, database management systems, computer vision and graphics, numerical analysis, software engineering, bioinformatics.

Apart from this, a computer engineer is supposed to be known as a fluent coder. Coding is the ‘Bread and Butter’ for all computer engineers. Programming or coding is an intriguing sector as it gives us the superpower to regulate computer programs on the go. The main goal for a computer engineer is to make a problem understandable to a machine so that it could solve the problem obligingly. The fluency and smoothness of an application are solely based on the way you design the code. C, the mother of all programming languages, is a general-purpose programming language that is extremely popular, simple, and flexible to use. It helps a programmer to build the base of designing a program.  It is a structured programming language that is machine-independent and extensively used to write various applications, Operating Systems like Windows, and many other complex programs like Oracle database, Git, Python interpreter, and more. Java, a high-level programming language, is also the most popular language for its design structure using object-oriented concepts (OOP). When it comes to the web, Java is unparallel. Most of the web-based applications are based on java. Apart from this, there are several programming languages like c++, python, Matlab, R to name a few.

There are innumerable and varied specialization and career options for a computer engineer. After completing his/her B.Tech degree a student may get absorbed in the software industry or may opt for higher studies. There are multiple sub-division and specializations in Computer Engineering which require applications in various sectors. Student can also pursue B.Tech degree in various applied fields:

  • AI/ML: Artificial Intelligence (AI) are emerging fields that will shape and dominate the future of this universe. Data is one of the most important assets of a company or government agency. It helps us to predict the future based on past experiences. AI has the potential to vastly change the way that humans interact, not only with the digital world but also with each other, through their work and other socioeconomic institutions – for better or for worse. A vast volume of data can be analysed by using a smart alternative, Machine Learning. It can produce an accurate result by designing a fast and efficient model for real-time data.
  • Blockchain: The duration of the course for B.Tech with specialization in blockchain is four years. Blockchain is currently booming and one of the most popular technologies that have invaded to almost every industry in the world. The world is changing its shape towards cryptocurrency. In near future, Bitcoin will be one of the popular transaction media. The main technology behind this is the blockchain. The technology will help the student to learn different algorithms and to curate the bitcoin on their own.
  • Cyber Security: Cybersecurity provides an expertise insight analysis on global security threats. In the world of web, to provide a secure web service is one of the main goals. The course on Cyber Security will help to learn different algorithms along with the expertization on ethical hacking, penetration testing, digital forensics. There are immense career avenues open for specialization in cybersecurity. This includes Security software developer, security analyst, security architect etc.
  • M.Tech Degree in Computer Science: Apart from doing graduation and going for an early job, a student may go for a master’s degree in computer science and engineering along with the specialized degree discussed above.

With the knowledge and concept in the domain, a computer science engineer can be eligible for an immense variety of job opportunities. Some of them are jotted below:

  1. Computer Science engineers are the primary resource of the software industry. With a sound concept in the subject, a student can crack any of the big houses easily.
  2. Government sectors such as I.S.R.O, B.H.E.L, etc are recruiting computer science engineers having a good GATE score.
  3. Interdisciplinary research is a new trend for Computer Science students. Inter-disciplinary subjects such as IoT, Bioinformatics provides a huge contribution in research for computer science students.
  4. Apart from interdisciplinary research, mainstream research in computer science also provides a huge scope for the student both nationally and internationally.

 As a computer science engineer, there are plenty of opportunities in Government sectors as well as private sectors. A focused, sincere and conceptual student has all the possibilities to touch the sky.