Biochemists study the chemistry of living systems to increase scientific knowledge and develop ways to apply this knowledge in areas such as medicine, veterinary science, agriculture, environmental science and manufacturing. Biochemistry provides a basis for all the life sciences.
To become a biochemist you usually have to complete a science or applied science degree at university with a major in biochemistry, environmental chemistry, molecular biology or a related field. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, biology, chemistry, earth and environmental science, mathematics and physics are normally required. Most universities in Australia offer degrees in these areas. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. For full details, refer to the entries on the website at www.goodcareersguide.com.au or university handbooks.
Biochemists may perform the following tasks:
Biochemists work in scientific research institutes, universities, and federal, state and territory government organisations such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Biochemists also work in medical research centres and hospital laboratories, and for food processing or drug manufacturing companies. Due to the high degree of specialisation required in this field, completion of a postgraduate degree is generally required for advancement to senior scientific positions. Employment is affected by factors such as the amount of funding provided for research in both the public and private sectors, and the general level of economic activity. Competition for jobs is strong.
A clinical biochemist works in hospital laboratories where they study the chemical composition of various tissues and bodily fluids to assist in the study, diagnosis and treatment of diseases.
An industrial biochemist works in laboratories in analytical and research work, such as checking the purity of food and beverages, or the enzymic production of fuels from waste products through fermentation procedures.
A research biochemist works in laboratories in universities, biotechnology companies, and agricultural, medical and veterinary institutes. They study areas such as the metabolism, growth and reproduction of fungi, bacteria, plants and animals, as well as the organisation of viruses. They frequently use the latest genetic engineering and molecular-biological techniques.