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I enjoy chem practicals more than bio practicals. Is a chem degree right for me?

Hello, I've just finished year 12 and I'm torn between applying for a degree in biochemistry or one in chemistry.

Biology has been my favourite science subject for a long time (especially microbiology and pathology). However, this year chemistry, particularly organic chemistry and reactions in inorganic chem, has captured my interest and my enthusiasm in carrying out chemistry praticals has increased. In short, I'm finding reactions, whether they be photosynthesis or nuclear fission, very interesting and I'm starting to dread the idea of spending three years looking through microscopes, carrying out field experiments and dealing with statistics.

If it helps, my predicted grades are: A for chem, B for bio and B for politics.

I need to make a decision soon because I've got to start writing my personal statement. Any help on this would be greatly appreciated -- thank you!
A biochemistry degree, by UK standards, is simply a molecular & cellular biology degree with little to no "actual" chemistry. It's definitely not a "mixture" of biology and chemistry or chemistry from a biological perspective. If you like how biology and chemistry intersect, and enjoy chemistry (organic/inorganic/physical) in general, you better apply to a chemistry degree, as nearly all chemistry degrees have biological chemistry, which might be something you want.
Original post by AH_DUYP
Hello, I've just finished year 12 and I'm torn between applying for a degree in biochemistry or one in chemistry.

Biology has been my favourite science subject for a long time (especially microbiology and pathology). However, this year chemistry, particularly organic chemistry and reactions in inorganic chem, has captured my interest and my enthusiasm in carrying out chemistry praticals has increased. In short, I'm finding reactions, whether they be photosynthesis or nuclear fission, very interesting and I'm starting to dread the idea of spending three years looking through microscopes, carrying out field experiments and dealing with statistics.

If it helps, my predicted grades are: A for chem, B for bio and B for politics.

I need to make a decision soon because I've got to start writing my personal statement. Any help on this would be greatly appreciated -- thank you!

Hi @AH_DUYP

As mentioned above, a biochemistry degree is at it's core a bioscience degree. Some will have no chemistry modules, some will have "chemistry for bioscience" style modules, and a few will offer some pure chemistry modules. I really enjoyed both biology and chemistry at A level and wanted to find a degree that allowed me to study a mix of both (but with a focus on biology). Lancaster's biochemistry degree, while still definitely mainly a biology degree, has three pathways (called biochemistry, biochemistry with genetics, and biochemistry with biomedicine) that differ in modules slightly. The biochemistry pathway allows me to take some pure chemistry modules, with 7 of my first year modules being run by the chemistry department and taught with chemistry students, on atoms and molecules, organic structure, thermodynamics, reactivity, kinetics, etc. However when I was in first year, due to the number of hours needed for a biochemistry degree, we didn't do every practical the chemists did in these modules, so we would do for example 1/3 of the practicals in the module and data analysis coursework based on the other lab work. After first year there are fewer chemistry modules and the options offered are more biochemistry specialised on topics like spectroscopy, analytical chemistry, and biomedical imaging. I didn't have to do any statistics (so far I'm two years in and I did one workshop on t testing) or fieldwork/ecology in my degree (which is good because I hate those areas) and instead I studied biochemical processes, cells, microbiology, genetics, and biotechnology. I'd recommend carefully looking at the modules of the degrees you are considering at each university as they may differ despite being the same degree title.

At Lancaster many degrees allow you to take a minor subject in your first year. Biochemistry doesn't have a minor as the degree takes up all the credits, but I know from meeting many chemists that lots of them studied a chemistry degree but did a minor in biology/biochemistry in first year (they picked their minor from a list and it was basically a small collection of modules). There isn't a list of minors available that I can send you as they vary depending on timetabling each year but as biochemists take both biology and chemistry modules the modules shouldn't clash. There is also some flexibility at universities so if you were studying both types of modules you'd potentially be able to switch between degrees early on if you changed your mind while there.

I'll link the webpages for the biochemistry degree (the pathways are explained more in depth in the prospectus online, they're not super obvious on the website), chemistry, and some information about the course structure at Lancaster below in case you're interested in learning more!
Biochemistry - https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/biochemistry-bsc-hons-c700/2024/
Chemistry - https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/chemistry-bsc-hons-f100/2024/
Course structure at Lancaster - https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/welcome/campus-learners/your-first-year-at-lancaster/

I'd start looking at the modules for both biochemistry and chemistry degrees at universities you are considering and see which areas speaks to you more. I'm obviously slightly biased towards biochemistry, because I study it, but if you prefer chemistry I would recommend going for that.

I hope I could help, if you have any questions about studying biochemistry/chemistry at university please feel free to ask!
Rebecca (Lancaster Student Ambassador) :smile:
I did a chemistry degree and I would say to be absolutely clear that you shouldn’t pick a course based purely on practicals because at degree level they form a very small proportion of your time. Most of your contact hours will be lectures, workshops and exams, so if you’re not totally convinced by the actual content then you won’t enjoy the overall degree.

As others have mentioned, a biochemistry degree is essentially a course in cell biology and so you will get very little understanding of chemistry there. What I would suggest considering is a degree in medicinal chemistry, because that combines mostly the organic branch of chemistry with quite a bit of biological modules and looks a lot at how drugs are influenced by the biological processes of metabolism, clearance, excretion etc. and how cellular properties inform the design of pharmaceuticals, so it may be the perfect mix of chemistry and biology for you.
(edited 6 months ago)

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