Biochemist Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Biochemist, or Biochemistry Scientist, is responsible for using their knowledge of biochemistry to experiment with chemicals and their effects on living organisms to create medicines and other beneficial elements. Their duties include analyzing cells from animals, plants or humans, using laboratory equipment to study chemical reactions and composing reports to publish their findings.

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Biochemist Duties and Responsibilities

Biochemists are research scientists, and their duties and responsibilities revolve around their work in laboratories. These duties and responsibilities include:

  • Managing laboratory teams, consisting of other scientists, Lab Assistants and often graduate students

  • Planning and conducting complex scientific research projects

  • Writing grant applications to acquire research funding from the government, corporations and foundations 

  • Using sound judgment and reasoning in drawing conclusions from the results of their experiments

  • Attending conferences and reviewing research of their peers to stay current on the latest developments in their field

  • Isolating, analyzing and synthesizing proteins, fats, DNA and other molecules in an ongoing quest to better understand their role living organisms

  • Conducting experiments and analyzing the results with accuracy and precision

What Does a Biochemist Do? 

Biochemists typically work for colleges, universities or private organizations in a research laboratory, but they can also work for manufacturing plants, renewable energy companies and food or drug facilities. They combine their knowledge of biology and chemistry to improve the health and well-being of living things. Their job is to experiment with chemicals and apply them to cancer cells or cells that show signs of hereditary disease to see whether the chemical overpowers the cells or leaves them unchanged. They may also be responsible for traveling to specific areas to obtain samples from animals, humans and plant life.

Biochemist Skills and Qualifications

Biochemists have to have a strong understanding of biological processes and scientific concepts in the areas of biology and chemistry. In addition, Biochemists also need: 

  • Analytical skills for conducting scientific experiments and analyzing them with precision and accuracy

  • Communication skills for writing and publishing research papers and reports, giving presentations and communicating with team members

  • Critical-thinking skills for drawing conclusions from experimental results through sound judgment and reasoning

  • Interpersonal skills for working well with others on a team towards a common goal

  • Math skills for using complex formulas and equations in their work

  • Perseverance to be thorough in their approach to problems and in their research

  • Problem-solving skills when using analysis and scientific experiments to identify solutions to complex scientific problems

  • Time-management skills for meeting deadlines when conducting research and prioritizing tasks

Biochemist Salary Expectations 

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Biochemist Education and Training Requirements 

A Biochemist position requires a Ph.D. degree in biochemistry along with an undergraduate degree in biochemistry, chemistry, biology or a related field. Undergraduate coursework in computer science and math is also critical for Biochemists when performing complex data analysis.  Undergraduates seeking a career as a Biochemist should try to gain additional laboratory experience through extracurricular courses that include a laboratory component, part-time work as a Laboratory Assistant or an internship in a laboratory environment.  

Biochemist Experience Requirements

Experience is a major part of a Biochemist’s education as much of their four- to six-year Ph.D. program consists of working in a laboratory on research projects with other Biochemists. The Ph.D. program is often followed by two to three years of post-graduate work, when Biochemists may conduct their own research and then publish their results in scientific journals.

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Frequently asked questions about Biochemists

 

What is the difference between a Biochemist and a Biophysicist?

The difference between a Biochemist and a Biophysicist is that Biochemists specialize in examining chemical properties and experimenting with how those chemicals react with biological processes. In contrast, Biophysicists specialize in investigating the physical properties of a biological component like a cell and how the laws of physics affect its functionality. 

For example, Biochemists could examine how milk thistle affects the growth of a cancer cell. In contrast, a Biophysicist may analyze damaged brain cells to determine the effects of head injuries on cell growth and development. Biochemists and Biophysicists may collaborate on particular projects to provide expertise in chemistry and physics.

 

What are the daily duties of a Biochemist?

On a typical day, a Biochemist starts by putting on laboratory gear, including lab coats, goggles, face masks, gloves and coverings for their head and shoes. This ensures that they contribute to a contamination-free environment and prevent self-contamination. They check on cultures and ongoing experiments and report the growth or reduction of particular cells in response to a chemical. Throughout the day, they filter liquids into test tubes and use a microscope and other tools to evaluate how a range of samples interact with chemical concoctions. 

After they complete their experiments for the day, Biochemists take time to add their findings to a report for future review and publication.

 

What qualities make a good Biochemist?

A good Biochemist has excellent attention to detail, enabling them to analyze experiments in a microscope and record changes to cells in response to certain chemicals. They enjoy teamwork and understand the importance of communicating with other Biochemists and science professionals to overcome scientific boundaries. A good Biochemist also has an innovative mindset, allowing them to explore unusually chemical combinations that provide solutions to illnesses and disease. Further, Biochemists should have a desire to help people. Their compassionate nature acts as a motivator for them in their daily job.

 

Who does a Biochemist report to?

A Biochemist typically reports to the Senior Biochemist within their facility to receive assignments and ask for assistance in experiments. Senior Biochemists may also be responsible for maintaining the lab’s supply inventory so that Biochemists always have what they need to conduct their research. In certain situations, a Biochemist may report to the Laboratory Manager to get permission to conduct experiments or obtain important supplies.

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