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Studying a Masters Degree In Biochemistry

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Biochemistry draws from the disciplines of biology and chemistry, as well as other aspects of science. The molecules around us, and those in cells or tissues, all have chemical properties; biochemistry involves the study of these. If you choose to study a biochemistry masters program you will learn how each component in a cell is structured and the ways in which it functions, you’ll examine lipids, carbohydrates, proteins and other molecules. Biochemistry is transferable to a range of real world applications; it assists with the advancement of medical techniques, food production and pharmaceuticals. Students taking a postgraduate qualification in biochemistry will find it easier to specialise than they might have during their first degree. They can branch out to learn more professional skills and develop a sound understanding of the subject, before choosing their next step in either academia or industry.

What's it like to study a Masters in Biochemistry

At postgraduate level the ways in which you’ll be taught will differ from your previous experiences of study. Tutorial groups will be smaller, lectures will take place less frequently and you will be expected to carry out a great deal of independent study. Preparation is vital as most seminars take the form of a debate, where each person is encouraged to speak and reflect upon the opinions of others. There will also be sessions dealing with communication, the ability to listen effectively and to write reports illustrating that you have understood what was said in a presentation. Assessments will be made in a variety of ways; there may be examinations, essays and online exercises.

Biochemistry Entry requirements

Universities need to be sure of your dedication to the subject before accepting your application, they also need to be confident in your ability to successfully complete the course. Therefore you should have a first or upper second class honours degree in a related subject – for example a medical science or biological course – from a UK university, or the equivalent from an overseas institute. In certain cases candidates who only achieved a 2.2, but show exceptional promise and have relevant experience, may also be accepted.

If you do not speak English as a first language you will need to demonstrate that you have a sound comprehension of it by producing a relevant official certificate. That could be an IELTS, with a score of 6.5 in each area, or a TOEFL with a score of 557. In some cases, admission staff will also request that candidates attend an English course at the university, prior to starting their masters program. It’s important to check the validity of any certificated you are planning to present, as most expire after two years.

Universities in mainland Europe will have different entry criteria to those in the UK, so it’s worth checking on their individual websites for more detailed information.

Study modules  

When studying a masters degree in biochemistry you are likely to have both core and specialist optional modules. The mandatory modules could be in areas like laboratory management, biomedical law, ethics and bioanalytical techniques. These will teach you the most effective methods of constructing an experiment, analysing the results, people management, healthy and safety regulations and legal issues. You’ll touch upon the aspects of biochemistry that relate to genetics, animal research and assisted reproduction.

The optional modules could look at specific medical disorders like metabolic complaints, malnutrition, obesity, as well as other areas like neonatal screening and the use of biosensors.

Another component of your biochemistry masters is likely to be a research project, which you will carry out independently. The data collection will take place in a clinical or laboratory setting and your allocated supervisor will be on hand to give practical advice.

Student case study

Most students who begin a postgraduate qualification in biochemistry are surprised by the diverse ways in which they are taught, including the close links many universities have with local industry. Vaida is studying biochemistry at the University of Copenhagen, she explains how real world experience was enhancing her academic studies: “Right now I am on practical experience at BRIC, a biotechnology research and innovation centre that works with the University of Copenhagen. I'm spending a year here to get laboratory experience. It's a good way of combining theory and practice."

Career opportunities 

Biochemistry qualifications give students a variety of skills that are readily transferable and a practical understanding of laboratory work. Many people who graduate from a Biochemistry masters degree go on to pursue a career in the medical industry or the health service. Once qualified, biochemists can choose a job in the fields of genetic research, cancer research, food science, immunology or forensics. Others prefer to stay in academia and carry on their research as a PhD student.

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