Do you like science? Does studying subjects like physics, chemistry and biology fascinate you? Are you interested in exploring the complex areas in these subjects and wish to research and invent remedies for various diseases and complications in life processes? If you are willing to contribute your knowledge and expertise in these subject areas then a research-based career is something you can opt. Read on to know more about a career in Biochemistry/Biophysics.
Biochemists/Biophysicists are involved in studying and analyzing the structure, functions, growth, and metabolism of living cells. You would study the chemical reactions as well as the physical properties of DNA, proteins and other parts of living cells.
Why Become a Biochemist and Biophysicist?
Biochemists/ Biophysicists research and study the chemical and physical properties of living organisms at a molecular level. Biochemists/Biophysicists try to understand how certain chemical and physical reactions take place in the DNA, proteins and other parts of living cells; how they react to medicines; how they are affected by foods, medicines/drugs, allergens, and other substances.
So what do we mean when we talk about ‘the chemical and physical properties of living organisms at the molecular level’?
As a Biochemist/ Biophysicist, you will analyze the structure, components, growth, metabolism, and reproduction of living cells. You will study biological systems such as digestive systems, nervous systems, circulatory systems, respiratory systems, cardiovascular systems, etc. which consist of a complex network of cells, tissues, organs, etc.
As a Biochemist/ Biophysicist, you would develop an in-depth understanding of the structure and functions of macro-molecules* such as DNA, RNA, Carbohydrates, Proteins, Lipids, etc. and study their physical properties and biomolecular processes. You will also assist clinical scientists and doctors to understand various patients’ clinical conditions by analyzing their body fluids, tissues, and organs. You will study various biomolecular processes in patients’ bodies and help doctors and other clinicians determine the causes of different diseases and also to monitor the status of the patients’ clinical conditions.
*Macromolecules are very large molecules such as proteins and lipids which may consist of thousands of atoms or monomers (monomers are molecules that can react together to form a macromolecule).
Before we move on to understand the key roles and responsibilities, let us understand what exactly Biochemists and Biophysicists exactly do.
As a Biochemist, you would identify and diagnose diseases by analyzing body fluids like blood, urine, saliva, and sweat among many others. You would study and conduct research to look for various proteins, enzymes, and vitamins, and then investigate the patterns of test results to understand why a patient is not feeling well. You would study the chemical reactions caused by for example intake of food or other external factors in the body.
As a Biophysicist, you would use the fundamentals of physics and mathematics to understand biological processes. You would be involved in the research and study of how nerve cells communicate, how plant cells transform light into energy, how changes in DNA can be analyzed to identify cancer outgrowths, and so on. Moreover, as a Biophysicist, you would develop methods to cure diseases, produce ways to create energy and renewable sources, understand complex biological structures of the human body and work towards finding their solutions.
Did you know that the DNA structure was solved by using Biophysics? Now that we know how DNA structures work, imagine the scope there’s still left in research studies.
Popular Specialization in Biochemist and Biophysicist Profession
Animal Biochemists are involved in the research and study of the metabolism as well as the function of animals. Their study focuses on the molecular, biochemical and genetic processes taking place in the animals.
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What Does a Biochemist and Biophysicist do?
As a Biochemist/ Biophysicist, you would be involved in the following key roles and responsibilities:
- You would be involved in studying to observe the physical and chemical properties of living things such as cell development, breathing and digestion, and living energy changes, such as growth, aging, and death.
- You would identify and research methods of transferring characteristics, such as resistance to disease, from one organism to another.
- You would be involved in developing and executing tests to diagnose diseases, genetic disorders, or other abnormalities; tests new drugs and medications used for commercial distribution; and methods to process, store, and use food, drugs, and chemical compounds.
- You would be involved in using microscopes, lasers and other laboratory instruments and equipment to carry out research
- You would also be responsible for planning complex research projects, designing relevant experiments and developing studies to improve research and experimentation.
- You would be using analytical and scientific software such as Accelrys QUANTA; Fujitsu Biomed Cache; Wave function Titan, etc. and CAD software such as Accelrys Insight II; ChemInnovation Software Chem 4-D to study three-dimensional models of DNA, RNA or other molecules.
- After completing experiments, you would also ensure the accurate and often electronic documentation of the results, including ensuring proper data collection and management, completing technical documentation and writing laboratory reports.
- You would also be analyzing data and assessing research findings in order to communicate conclusions through findings through written reports and presentations.
How to Become a Biochemist and Biophysicist – Eligibility Criteria
As a Biochemist/ Biophysicist, after completing your graduation and post-graduation you would be involved in the following field of study:
- Agricultural Biochemistry
- Animal Biochemistry
- Cellular and Molecular Biology
- Food Biochemistry
- Gene-protein Engineering
- Medical Biochemistry
- Medical Biophysics
- Medical Physics
- Molecular Biology
- Molecular Biophysics
- Plant Biochemistry
- Veterinary Biochemistry
As a Biochemist/ Biophysicist, you may find job opportunities in:
- Institutes/ universities conducting research in Biology/Biochemistry/ Biophysics etc. such as the National Institute of Immunology, National Centre for Cell Science, National Institute of Plant Genome Research, Institute for Stem Cell Science and Regenerative Medicine, National Institute of Biomedical Genomics, Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, etc.
- Departments, Centres, and Units (Biological Sciences/ chemical sciences/ Physical sciences) under Indian Institute of Sciences such as the Department of Biochemistry, Centre for Infectious Disease Research, Molecular Biophysics Unit, Department of Molecular Reproduction, Development and Genetics, Department of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry, Department of Physics, etc.
- Research institutions such as Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGIMS), Central Drug Research Institute (CSIR), National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science &Technology (AIST), National Centre for Cell Science, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, etc.
- Medical colleges and medical research institutions such as All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Research Institute, etc.
- Institutions/ universities under CSIR for research in Biochemistry/Biophysics such as the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB), Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM), etc.
As a Biochemist/ Biophysicist, you may find the job opportunities as follows:
- After a Master’s degree, as a (i) Doctoral Fellow (while doing a Ph.D.) or as a (ii) Research Associate
- After a PhD as a – (i) Post-Doctoral Fellow or as a (ii) Research Scientist/ Scientist
- In research organizations/companies – Mostly after a Ph.D. as a Scientist or after a Post-Doctoral Fellowship as a Scientist. Some opportunities do exist as a Research Associate after a Master’s degree.
- In university departments and medical colleges, as an Assistant Professor after PhD.
- In CSIR Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, as Junior Research Fellow (JRF), Senior Research Fellow (SRF) and Project Fellow
Salary of a Biochemist and Biophysicist
As a Research Associate, (after completing M.Sc. in Biochemistry/Biophysics or a similar field) you may get a stipend of around Rs.15,000 – 30,000 per month.
As a Junior Research Fellow (after completing a master’s degree and clearing CSIR-NET, you may get a stipend of around Rs.35,000 per month.
As a Senior Research Fellow (after 1-2 years of experience as a Junior Research Fellow) you may get around Rs. 38,000 per month.
As a Post-Doctoral Fellow (after completing your Ph.D.) you may get around Rs. 40,000 – 45,000 per month.
According to the 7th CPC,
As a Scientist, you will earn around Rs. 56,100 to Rs.85,000 per month.
As a Senior Scientist, you will earn around Rs.78,800 to Rs.1,19,532 per month.
As a Principal Scientist, you will earn around Rs.1,23,100 to Rs.1,81,995 per month.
As a Senior Principal Scientist, you will earn around Rs. 2,05,400 to Rs. 2,32,758 per month.
As a Chief Scientist, you will earn around Rs.2,50,000 – 3,00,000 per month.
If you begin your career in teaching and research,
As an Assistant Professor Grade-II: Rs.57,700 to Rs.1,17,200 per month.
As an Assistant Professor Grade I: Rs.1,01,500 to Rs.2,04,700 per month.
As an AssociateProfessor, you will earn around Rs. 1,39,600 to Rs.2,11,300 per month.
As a Professor, you will earn around Rs.1,44,200 to Rs.2,24,100 per month.
Career Progression in Biochemist and Biophysicist Profession
After completing your master’s you would start working as a Research Associate.
After your Research Associate, you will grow as Senior Research Associate. There is no scope of growth unless you complete a PhD. In some corporate organizations, you may find roles as Biochemist in which you may progress as Junior Biochemist and then as a Senior Biochemist.
Research Associate – Senior Research Associate
After completing master’s, you may also join as a Junior Research Fellow and then become a Senior Research Fellow
Junior Research Fellow – Senior Research Fellow
If you want to work in the field of scientific research in institutes or universities, you may progress as:
Scientist – Senior Scientist – Principal Scientist–Senior Principal Scientist – Director/ Chief Scientist
If you want to work in the field of teaching at a university/institution, you may progress as:
Assistant Professor – Associate Professor – Professor – Dean/ Director
What does Industry Trends Say – Future Prospects
According to the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), the Healthcare market is estimated to reach US$ 372 by the year 2022. The hospital industry in India is expected to increase from Rs.4 trillion in the year 2017 to Rs 8.6 trillion by the year 2022 at a Compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16-17%.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for Biochemists/ Biophysicists are expected to grow 6 % by the year 2028. As the aging population is growing rapidly, there is going to be a two-fold increase in the demand for new drugs and procedures to cure and prevent diseases. This means that there would be a need for basic research which would increase the scientific knowledge in order to research and develop biological products and processes to cure diseases and improve the lives of people.
The demand for Biochemists/ Biophysicists would increase in the coming future as there is a need for research in these scientific disciplines to develop new medicines and treatments.
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