Biochemist and Biophysicist
Main Topic: Environment and Society
Secondary Topic: Physical Geography
Overview: Biochemists and biophysicists study the chemical and physical principles of living things and of biological processes, such as cell development, growth, heredity, and disease. They use advanced technologies, such as lasers and fluorescent microscopes, to conduct scientific experiments and analyses. They also use x rays and computer modeling software to determine the three-dimensional structures of proteins and other molecules. Those involved in biotechnology research use chemical enzymes to synthesize recombinant DNA.
Biochemists, sometimes called molecular biologists or cellular biologists, may study the molecular mechanisms by which cells feed, divide, and grow. Others study the evolution of plants and animals, to understand how genetic traits are carried through successive generations. Biophysicists may conduct basic research to learn how nerve cells communicate or how proteins work.
Biochemists and biophysicists who conduct applied research attempt to develop products and processes that improve people’s lives. For example, in medicine, biochemists and biophysicists develop tests used to detect infections, genetic disorders, and other diseases. They also develop new drugs and medications, such as those used to treat cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. Applied research in biochemistry and biophysics has many uses outside of medicine. In agriculture, biochemists and biophysicists research ways to genetically engineer crops so that they will be resistant to drought, disease, insects, and other afflictions. Biochemists and biophysicists also investigate alternative fuels, such as biofuels—renewable energy sources from plants. In addition, they develop ways to protect the environment and clean up pollution. Many people with a biochemistry background become professors and teachers.
Geographic skills are essential for biochemists and biophysicists. They need to understand the potential geographic patterns of the phenomena they are studying, both in basic and applied research, and can use geographic information systems (GIS) in those efforts.
Geographers at work: Biogeographers, geochemists, geophysicists, environmental geographers
Recommended College Courses: Environmental geography, biogeography, geographic information science, remote sensing, natural resource use and management, climatology, physical geography
Skills: Environmental mapping and modeling, geographic information systems, computer and database systems, spatial analysis, understanding and assessment of physical features (soils, topography, hydrology); map reading and interpretation
Occupation Group: Life, Physical, and Social Science
Learn more about Biochemists and Biophysicists from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Department of Labor: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/biochemists-and-biophysicists.htm#tab-2
Written by Christopher Anderson