Biochemistry demonstrates the beauty and complexity of life; explaining how life is possible on the smallest scale. It is fascinating how chemical reactions that seem intangible and molecules, so small that they appear insignificant on a subcellular level, have such a large impact on the organism and their ability to survive. The overlap between Biology and Chemistry fascinates me and by studying Biochemistry, I hope to gain a deeper understanding of life.
My interest in Biochemistry and how molecules interact within cells began when I was researching for my EPQ, focussing on the use of Solid Lipid Nanoparticles to improve chemotherapy when treating Lung Cancer. Whilst reading journal articles during my research, I found the mechanism of action of cytotoxic drugs fascinating - how drugs, in their chemical form, interact with molecules within the cell to reach their desired outcome: Cisplatin, for example, binds to purine bases in DNA inhibiting replication causing cell death. It is also interesting that the metabolites of one reaction can start a new, independent reaction within the cell, as a result of the same drug, such as the introduction of reactive oxygen species when the chlorine from the Cisplatin molecule reacts with water in the cytoplasm. I was then intrigued to see how oxygen can bring about additional cytotoxicity, perhaps making these drugs more potent, which led me to read “Oxygen” by Nick Lane. I learned that oxygen becomes increasingly more reactive and harmful as it gains more electrons - turning from oxygen, to a superoxide radical, to hydrogen peroxide, to a hydroxyl radical; the more reactive molecule produced through a reaction with iron that is already within the cell. The idea that the introduction of one new molecule within a cell can create a chain of chemical reactions which has the ability to completely alter the function of a cell is fascinating. Studying Biochemistry would allow me to contribute to the improvement of current treatments of diseases, as the practical use of knowledge that I would gain is important in research and innovation. In our Chemistry lessons I gave a presentation on the MasSpec Pen, where mass spectrometry identifies tumour tissue characterised by different proportions of various molecules on the cell surface. The idea that cells can change their appearance as a result of changes within the DNA intrigued me, leading me to read “Genome” by Matt Ridley. From this, I learned that random mutations can lead to the tumour suppressor genes being turned off and oncogenes being turned on which can result in the development of a tumour. Therefore, I researched and wrote an essay discussing whether manually turning various genes on and off can limit the growth of a tumour, which I entered into the Exeter College, Oxford Essay Writing Competition - achieving a highly commended award. As well as providing an opportunity to explore a topic that interested me, this also allowed me to practise my academic research and analytical writing skills that would help me while studying the degree. During my activities outside of school, I have gained skills that would be beneficial, such as the resilience and commitment shown from my grade 8 piano and singing, singing in the County Choir, and applying the skills of classical piano to jazz piano in the school Big Band - proving my ability to apply what I learned in one area to a different situation. I understand that whilst I have a passion for learning, it is also important to use the knowledge that I gain to improve society. This was highlighted to me when I completed a week of work experience in my local pharmacy which proved the importance of continually improving drug mechanisms, reducing the need for multiple drugs to be prescribed at once, and improving the patient’s comfort and health. This made me realise that the research that underpins the pharmaceutical scene is a field I can see myself pursuing a career in.
Universities Applied to:
University of Oxford - Unsuccessful after interview
Imperial College London - Offer A*AA (firm)
University College London - Offer AAA (insurance)
University of York - Offer AAA (AAB with EPQ grade A)
University of Bath - Offer AAB (ABB with EPQ grade A)