HELP WITH RESEARCH ABOUT BIO-CHEMISTRY AS A PROFESSION

JTILL JTILL at pofvax.pnb.sunysb.edu
Thu Oct 5 10:43:01 EST 1995


I am a fourth year biochemistry student here at Stony Brook.  What does 
a biochemist do?  These days the field of biochemsitry falls in to the 
general category of molecular biology which is the study of the 
molecules "of life".  That is, biochemists study the role of molecules 
(from enzymes and other proteins to lipids and carbohydrates) in living 
organisms.  This is what we do in a nutshell.  I personally work on 
protein tyrosine kinases, enzymes linked directly to the propogation of 
signals in a cell which ultimately can lead to cancer.  Targeting these 
enzymes for disruption is a good way to develop cancer therapy (but 
thats another story entirely).
As for education, we're looking at four years of college with a major in 
biology or biochemistry. You must do research to be admitted to graduate 
school.  I did my research as an undergraduate where I received credit 
for working in a lab. That's where I was introduced to general 
laboratory techniques.  A lot of my coleagues here in the program of 
molecular and cellular biology chose to work for a year or two (which 
puts money in the bank and gives you experience).  One applies to any 
number of graduate schools their last year in college.  These days, you 
don't pay to go to graduate school.  Rather, they pay you.  I receive a 
stipend of $14,000 to go to school.  I teach about five hours a week 
(good experience) and spend the rest of my time doing research (I 
completed the five course requirements needed in my first two years).  
Which bings me to you question of course requirements.  Take anything 
that has anything to do with science.  No kidding.  It all helps.  
Specifically, you'll want to take cell biology, biochemistry, molecular 
genetics, and probably some specialty course (as an undergraduate).  In 
high school...I took all the AP courses in science my school offered.  
Like I said, the more you know, they better scientist you'll become.
Job opportunities?  Well right now, biochemists in academic institutions 
are funded primarily by grants which are basically donations from the 
government or private corporations.  Money is tight and research is real 
damned expensive.  To keep your job in a university, you've got to 
produce data - and that requires seriously hard work (15 hrs/day) and 
luck.  
	Oh, and I forgot to mention, it takes about 5-6 years to get a Ph.D.  
Its a straight program which does not require a masters degree so that's 
5-6 straight after college.  After that, you might want to do a post 
doctoral study (most people do) for 2-4 years.  There you might make 
anywhere from 20-35,000 dollars a year while learning more about 
research and, probably, more about a specific topic in research, one you 
will probably base your entire life's work on (if you go into the 
academic community).  SOme people go directly into industry.  Starting 
there you can make around $40,000.  After a few years, you can make some 
serious bucks (>$100,000) but you have to understand, industry decides 
what you do research on.  YOu just decide how to do it.  This may not 
seem bad but believe me, if you're not working on something you are 
really interested in, your motivation will drop.
O.K., enough for now, I've got to get back to the lab.  Write me with 
any particular questions you have.

For now, see ya in cyberspace.

- Jeff Till
Dept. of Physiology and Biophysics
SUNY @ Stony Brook





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