Biochemistry Lives in Two Worlds
December 15, 2004
Dr. Mark Hemric, associate professor of chemistry at OBU, proudly wears a red t-shirt with white lettering designed by his sophomore biochemistry majors. The front of the t-shirt says “Biochemistry,” and the back has the definition of the word. “My definition of biochemistry is ‘explaining the beauty of biology with the precision of chemistry.’”
There are several ways to look at the difference in biochemistry, biology and chemistry, according to Mark. In the first analogy, he says to imagine a painting hanging on the wall. An observer would look at the painting for the beauty of it – the green of the grass, the blue of the sky. An artist, would look at it and explain how the artist made the green, what colors were used, what kinds of strokes were used, etc. “Biology is descriptive, chemistry is problem-solving, and biochemistry is both sides of the fence,” says Mark.
“Another way to look at it is using the analogy of a car lot. The chemist would be the parts and service guy. They know how things work and they know how to fix things. The biologist would be the salesman. He could tell you all about the features and point out the beauty in the car. The biochemist would be the manager. He knows all about parts and service, and he knows all about the features, but he doesn’t actually work on the car, and he’s not the best salesman!”
A student majoring in biochemistry can go anywhere and do just about anything, Mark says. “Biochemistry lives in both worlds – chemistry and biology. Biochemistry students study DNA, lipids, proteins, etc. We have a student who is actually doing plant taxology, working in plant molecular research. We have another student who went to Duke to do oncology research. Many go on to medical schools and others do research at medical schools.”
Recently, Mark’s biochemistry seniors, as a capstone project, determined the sequence of a cancer gene.