Questions about Biochemistry Watch

joshhughes88
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So far I have received these offers:-

Southampton: BBB (Biochemistry)
Exeter: BBB (Biochemistry)
Bath: AAB (Biochemistry)
Loughborough: BBC (Medicinal Chemistry with Pharmacology)

I am still waiting on a decision from Warwick (Biochemistry)

At the moment I am still very undecided about which universities to accept. I am also confused about the content of the Biochemistry course itself. I originally choose biochemistry on the presumption that it would largely involve chemistry pertaining to biological systems (Mainly organic chemistry, and little physical chemistry).
Recently we have been studying some basic biochemistry as part of A2 biology. It all seems very vague and more akin to rote learning a set of sequences rather than logical mechanisms like those involved in chemistry. I had previously assumed that this was due to it being so highly simplified at A-level, and that at university this would not be the case.
However I have heard recently there is in fact, little in the way of organic chemistry in the biochemistry courses. This makes me wonder if degree level biochemistry will be largely based on the students ability to memorise and regurgitate large amounts of almost meaningless information.

So my first question is this:

How much chemistry (particularly organic chemistry) is there involved in the biochemistry course? Does it follow a strict, logical order or is the work largely memorisation orientated?

Also, which of the universities I have stated would you recommend? Which has the best reputation etc?

Thanks,

Josh
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Varciani
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Am also very interested in this.
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metallica nutter
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degree level biochemistry is very different to the topics you have covered in a-level biology or chemistry so i wouldnt worry about...its almost like your studying a new subject from scratch
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Hest
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I'm not sure what kind of Chemistry you're doing at A level, but when I did it there wasn't much application of logic really.
In first year of science, everyone does very similar core modules, which both broadens your horizons in different fields and gets everyone to a base level of understanding.

In biochemistry, you will have to learn basic chemical reactions that are relvant in the human body. In each year, there is at least one module on organic or physical chemistry. However, the rest will be mainly biology based.

I don't expect an A-level student to understand, but the knowledge gained in biochemistry is not simply just "useless information". You are constantly being tested on your ability to rationalize a scenario by applying the information you have learnt, unlike A-level, there are essay and problem questions that require logic in a different sense to pure chemistry, which I think you are more interested in.

For example, in chemistry, you may be given the properties of a mystery compound. And using your knowledge of different reactive groups, you may have to identify, synthesize, or build up a model of this.
In biochemistry, you may be given the properties of a pathogenic molecule. Your goal describe what kind of effects this causes on the body and how it does this in a chemical way, i.e. describe the type of molecules and reactions involved. And possibly how to treat it.
Hence, biochemists help concoct/alter drugs and treatments for doctors to use. Pharmacology applies the knowledge of effect and dose. And Chemistry tries to make new and better compounds by synthesis, using the rules of nature.

I'm currently in my third year now, doing a research project using a machine similar to those used in NMR, but conducts EPR spectroscopy instead that involves a lot of data analysis.
The Biology side generally broader, concepts overlap and are brought together from many different fields.
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94_confessions
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(Original post by Hest)
In biochemistry, you will have to learn basic chemical reactions that are relvant in the human body.
So are the types topics you learn at degree level in any way similar to those you learn at A-Level? (i.e. respiration, photosynthesis, the nervous system.)
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Hest
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(Original post by 94_confessions)
So are the types topics you learn at degree level in any way similar to those you learn at A-Level? (i.e. respiration, photosynthesis, the nervous system.)
Yes, you are likely to go over respiration & photosynthesis in more detail. And as you go along, you'll pick up different aspects of the nervous system if you take drug/disease related modules.

Also, there will be alot of structural biology involved in biochemistry. I.e. learning how the structure of proteins influence their activities, and how we can manipulate them through this knowledge.
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94_confessions
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(Original post by Hest)
Yes, you are likely to go over respiration & photosynthesis in more detail. And as you go along, you'll pick up different aspects of the nervous system if you take drug/disease related modules.

Also, there will be alot of structural biology involved in biochemistry. I.e. learning how the structure of proteins influence their activities, and how we can manipulate them through this knowledge.
So within the biology modules, is there much use of organic chemistry, or would that be reserved to the optional chemistry modules?
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joshhughes88
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Thanks very much for the responses, a great help!

(Original post by 94_confessions)
So within the biology modules, is there much use of organic chemistry, or would that be reserved to the optional chemistry modules?
This is what I am trying to find out too, is there much in the way of the typical 'curly-arrow' style mechanisms involved, or is this reserved just for chemistry modules?
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94_confessions
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(Original post by joshhughes88)
Thanks very much for the responses, a great help!



This is what I am trying to find out too, is there much in the way of the typical 'curly-arrow' style mechanisms involved, or is this reserved just for chemistry modules?
I think you'll only find the 'curly-arrow' type mechanisms in the specific chemistry modules. .
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Hest
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(Original post by 94_confessions)
I think you'll only find the 'curly-arrow' type mechanisms in the specific chemistry modules. .
Pretty much so. There will be the odd exception sometimes, like when you'll have to learn how different proteases work, but that's it.

Also, 3rd year exams have mostly essay questions for biology subjects with usually 1 or 2 options for problem-based solving. I was a firm 2:1 student up until last year, but my results for last semester put me on a 58% average overall. Essay questions are bloody stupid. I really don't know what the lecturer expects. And we don't get advice on how to write them either.
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Hedgehunter
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I know that on the Bath course there are two modules which you take in years 2 and 3 (or 4 if on placement) that are titled 'Biochemical Problems' which I presume involves some application of knowledge to new situations and also logic, like what Hest said I think.
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94_confessions
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(Original post by Hest)
Pretty much so. There will be the odd exception sometimes, like when you'll have to learn how different proteases work, but that's it.

Also, 3rd year exams have mostly essay questions for biology subjects with usually 1 or 2 options for problem-based solving. I was a firm 2:1 student up until last year, but my results for last semester put me on a 58% average overall. Essay questions are bloody stupid. I really don't know what the lecturer expects. And we don't get advice on how to write them either.
Ouch! I'm sorry to hear that. So would you reccomend Biochemistry as a course if someone wanted a fair bit of Chemistry involved?
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Hest
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(Original post by 94_confessions)
Ouch! I'm sorry to hear that. So would you reccomend Biochemistry as a course if someone wanted a fair bit of Chemistry involved?
Actually, no, I wouldn't. The reason being that, on average, you have about 6-7 modules each year. And only 1-2 will be heavily chemistry based. In third year, at least in the University of Manchester, there are no chemistry based options.

So I think it's best to take it as a backup. Try getting into pure chemistry if you can (entry requirements are higher), and study some biology on the side to supplement.

These books make excellent general reading for undergrad students:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Biology-Inte...1&sr=1-1-spell

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Organic-Chem...7107874&sr=1-3
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94_confessions
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(Original post by Hest)
Actually, no, I wouldn't. The reason being that, on average, you have about 6-7 modules each year. And only 1-2 will be heavily chemistry based. In third year, at least in the University of Manchester, there are no chemistry based options.

So I think it's best to take it as a backup. Try getting into pure chemistry if you can (entry requirements are higher), and study some biology on the side to supplement.

These books make excellent general reading for undergrad students:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Biology-Inte...1&sr=1-1-spell

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Organic-Chem...7107874&sr=1-3
Oh crap :'). Well, at Manchester, for your final year project, could you possibly do one that has some ground in Chemistry, if you wanted?
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Hest
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(Original post by 94_confessions)
Oh crap :'). Well, at Manchester, for your final year project, could you possibly do one that has some ground in Chemistry, if you wanted?
Yes. But you would have to actively seek out a professor who is researching in that particular area. I left my project to be randomly assigned, and now I get to use smelly EPR and learn a whole load of physics! :eek3:
Definately better to choose your own.
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Cirsium
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(Original post by Hest)
Actually, no, I wouldn't. The reason being that, on average, you have about 6-7 modules each year. And only 1-2 will be heavily chemistry based. In third year, at least in the University of Manchester, there are no chemistry based options.
Surely that varies a lot by uni though? I'm sure the Oxford course can't be alone in being hardcore chemistry with some biology thrown in now and then (for the first year at least)?
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Hest
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(Original post by Bekaboo)
Surely that varies a lot by uni though?
Like I said. This is based off my University course.
I'm surprised that Oxford focuses more on chemistry for their Biochemistry course. The whole idea of the subject is mainly dealing with aspects of protein function across a spectrum of organisms and industrial applications.
Seriously though, pure chemistry and a bit of self study on the side is probably what most of you are looking for.
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Cirsium
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I think it gets much more applied later on - it's just in the beginning it's very chem heavy.
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atheistwithfaith
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Different universities present Biochemistry in different ways, however areas I think they are all concerned with:
Cellular and Molecular systems
Proteins
Bioenergetics
Genetics
Techniques

At Bristol we had a compulsory chemistry unit for the first year, an optional unit and the biochemistry unit. The second year I don't believe you could take chemistry.

I always considor biochemistry as being between biology and chemistry, but leaning more towards chemistry than biology. Biology is largely about broad observations, whereas biochemistry is interested in breaking those observations down and examining the mechanisms which underpin them. This includes reaction pathways and kinetics - where you can apply 1st year undergrad chemistry - but it does not go into full detail on the movement of electrons and the 'chemistry chemistry' side of it. This is many because many of these mechanisms if looked at in full detail are incredibly complex. There just would not be enough time to learn about all the different biochemical systems if you were bogged down with the chemistry behind it all.

Remember, if you are truly interested in the chemistry behind it: after your first year you should be equipped with all the mental tools neccesary to do further reading and find it out for yourself. If you had this mindset you would surely do very well in your degree; first class degrees and only awarded to those who have done extra reading.
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94_confessions
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(Original post by Hest)
Yes. But you would have to actively seek out a professor who is researching in that particular area. I left my project to be randomly assigned, and now I get to use smelly EPR and learn a whole load of physics! :eek3:
definitely better to choose your own.
Yikes! I will definitely not do that then :'). Well, on a slightly different note, what's it like studying (BioChem) at Manchester? Is it anything like how it seems on open days? .
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