Biochemists are typically lab-based professionals who study and explore the chemical processes occurring within living things. They are employed across a wide range of industries and within academia.
Many biochemists are employed within research but there are also opportunities in product development and some specialised manufacturing environments.
What is Biochemistry?
Biochemistry is the professional meeting point of chemistry and biology. It focuses on the chemical processes that happen naturally within living organisms – trying to solve biological problems through understanding chemical properties.
Biochemists can study across a wide range of organisms including humans, animals, plants, viruses and bacteria. They can study and monitor “normal” chemical processes as well as observing how these processes are changed by a disease state or intervention. They may also tasked with trying to change some chemical processes to produce an alternative output.
Generally biochemists are working to optimise positive characteristics and decrease negative characteristics across a specific organism.
If working in industry (such as food, biotechnology, medical diagnostics or laboratory services), biochemists are typically working towards optimisation of a product.
What Does a Biochemist do?
The specific tasks of a biochemist will depend upon their area of study or expertise. Typically involved in research or development, tasks may include:
- Planning experiments
- Developing new tools or equipment as necessary
- Conducting experiments
- Close adherence to both internal SOPs and relevant external regulations
- Troubleshooting problems with laboratory equipment
- Monitoring and recording experimental results
- Analysis of results and writing of reports
- Presentation of research findings
- Management or supervision of junior laboratory staff
Biochemists can also be involved in a production or manufacturing team within certain highly regulated industries such as diagnostics or biotechnology. In this type of role, biochemists will typically sit within the quality department. Tasks might include:
- Monitoring certain parts of a manufacturing process
- Providing specialist quality control testing to a manufacturing team
- Testing of product safety and assuring adherence to predetermined standards
- Working closely with the manufacturing team members to solve any problems that arise
This is an extremely important function within highly regulated industries as their work confirms the safety, effectiveness and reliability of a product. If working in this sort of role, biochemists might be required to follow specialist manufacturing guidelines such as wearing personal protective equipment within a cleanroom environment.
Becoming a Biochemist
Individuals looking to become Biochemists will typically have a third level qualification in a relevant scientific discipling (e.g. BSc Biochemistry or similar). For those looking to enter academia, postgraduate courses are available. For those looking to begin a career in industry, some companies will offer graduate schemes or entry level positions.
In addition to the relevant qualifications, the following skills would be highly desirable for candidates in this area:
- Laboratory skills – even entry level jobs will expect a level of lab experience from degree level study
- Organisational skills – projects and experiments need to be completed within the timescales given to keep larger deliverables and schedules on time
- Written communication skills – report writing, record keeping communication with other team members are important parts of the role
- Verbal communication skills – must be able to discuss scientific ideas with stakeholders across teams and at all levels
- Problem solving skills – ability to find new ways of tackling a problem and finding innovative solutions is important within both academic and industrial settings
Switching to Biochemistry in the Pharmaceutical Industry
If you have a relevant degree but are missing direct pharmaceutical or medical device experience, check out our eBioPharmaChem programme. This academically accredited 30 week conversion course will help turn your scientific experience into a role within these growing industries.
For more information on currently available Biochemist roles near you, head to our jobs boards and select Science in the “Jobs by Category” menu. We currently have jobs boards for Ireland, the UK and Philadelphia, USA.
What is the Salary for a Biochemist?
For typical biochemist salaries in your country, check out our salaries page.
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