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Biochemistry

I’m not going to lie: though I’m a chemistry minor, chemistry just isn’t really my thing. I have utmost respect for chemistry as both a science and a profession; however, much to the dismay of friend and fellow blogger Carly, it just isn’t something that I absolutely love.

General chemistry was fine, but honestly, organic chemistry just never really clicked for me. I could generally get through orgo problems (except for the obnoxiously-long synthesis problems), but I just really didn’t draw a connection between orgo and the biology classes I loved so dearly.

Since biochemistry draws heavily in concepts learned in organic, I was very hesitant about taking this course. I figured that I’d best take it this semester with all of my closest friends; however, I honestly wasn’t looking forward to it. But thus far in the semester, I’ve come to really enjoy biochem. Take this afternoon, for instance. I was getting very confused by some physics I was attempting. So you know what I did? I put physics away for a little while and picked up my biochem. Though it can take me an embarrassing amount of time to finish one biochem problem, I always feel a huge sense of accomplishment when I successfully complete an assignment.

I think I like biochem because it combines all of the concepts I’ve learned thus far in my studies of biology at Fontbonne. In biochem, there are hints of biotechnology, molecular biology, cell biology, and – yes, that’s right – organic chemistry. There are definitely days when I wish I wouldn’t have to spend umpteen hours reading and taking notes and doing online quizzes and doing homework for biochemistry, but overall, I’m coming to really enjoy looking at the world from the intersection of biology and chemistry. And, much unlike last spring when organic ended, I may actually be quite sad when biochem officially ends in just about two months.

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I’m going to keep this blog post gloriously short tonight. I just felt the need to share my copious amounts of happiness with the world.

Lately I’ve been wearing this really stupid smile on my face as I sit down to study with my biochemistry textbook, which is becoming satisfyingly worn-in with highlighter and pencil marks where I began underlining things that I felt were important before coming to the conclusion that everything was important and that I was wasting my time. Yes, the shift has occurred: the scary newness of unfamiliar territory has worn off, and I finally, finally feel at home on the third floor of AB. I love the feeling I get where, after reading the same chapter in my biochem book three times, it all finally clicks (yes, it does take that long for this information to sink in). I love how fellow blogger Courtney and I have the longest email conversations freaking out over homework problems every evening after classes are over. I love how my professors move exam dates for us when we ask reeeally nicely. I love how my friends were so excited and happy and welcoming when I made the switch, even when I was feeling nervous and awful about it. I love how all of those same friends don’t stop being my friend when I’m crabby because I’ve been working on the same Michaelis-Menten equation problem or what have you and can’t seem to get the same answer as them. I love how Doc takes the time to answer all of my calc questions during her office hours, and lets me sit there and do my homework. I love knowing that somehow, all of the crazy information (because some of the stuff I’ve learned in the past few weeks is really kind of mind-boggling and awesome) will help me make a difference someday as I face the challenges of our time.

Sure, I may have spent six hours (at least) working on a biochem take-home test problem, but in all honesty, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

-Carly

“Clash the Truth” by Beach Fossils (I. Love. This. New. Album.)

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After a long day of physics, biochemistry, and molecular techniques lab, one of my favorite things to do is return home to my best friend, Cocoa Dixie, to take her for a walk. Being a commuter allows me to do that.

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Last week on my blog, I made a rather bold statement. Okay, I probably made several, but this one keeps coming back to me:

“…I know now that I definitely don’t like biochemistry enough to be a biochemist (organic chem. is way better…). I thought I would enjoy learning about the chemistry of life, but honestly, I kind of really dislike it. A lot.”

I would like to take a moment to publically apologize to biochemistry for not giving it time to sink in and grow on me. To quote my mom when I told her last week about my dread of the subject:

“You’ve been doing it for what, two weeks?”

To which I defensively responded that it had been more like five weeks, thank you, which is plenty of time to decide that you don’t like something, right? Of course. At least that’s what I thought, until last Thursday, when my view of everything changed and I began to think more logically again.

Fontbonne is in the process of hiring a new organic chem. professor! And we biology students have had the opportunity to attend mock lectures given by potential candidates. Last Thursday, we got out of biochem early, and Dr. Paine-Saunders led us upstairs to meet the latest candidate, a guy from Wisconsin. Now, I’ve heard that Wisconsin’s chemistry program is one of the best in the nation, so I was excited to see what methods he would employ in his teaching demo. We began with a brief question and answer session, during which we students were given some time to drill him on anything we wanted. One girl asked him how he felt about having students in his organic chemistry class who weren’t planning on going into a chemistry-related field. To which he gave the most wonderful, perfect response: he explained how, while those students may not be going into chemistry, per se, it is likely their fields are in fact related to chemistry and that a firm understanding in the subject is crucial in order to be truly competent in whatever career it is they have (like nutrition, for example).

I fought the urge to write, “HIRE THIS GUY!!” on my evaluation sheet.

See, I’m a terrible decision maker, and the fact that I chose to change majors is kind of a huge deal. Constantly I go back and forth in my head: “Did I make the right choice? Or did I make the stupidest decision of my life?” But this potential future organic chemistry teacher vocalized exactly why I changed majors, proving to me that my logic behind making the switch was completely sound. I changed majors because I knew that understanding what’s going on at the molecular level would help me better understand the big-picture concepts that I’m so passionate about. I would understand why organic agriculture is something worth advocating for, I would understand why processed foods and cosmetics and plastic water bottles and carpets and mattresses (I am NOT paranoid) are bad for us, I would understand what’s going on in the cells of my body as I’m training for my next half-marathon in April. Yes, this is why I changed majors, to understand these things and so much more! But my anxiety and fear over my decision kept me from seeing things rationally, and instead led me into believing that my new major was pulling me farther and farther away from who I am and who I want to be as a scientist. I see now, though, that the opposite is happening, just as I knew it would all along: The more I get into biochem, the more I see how applicable it is to what I want to do.

So, long story short, after making this statement, the candidate proved his point with an awesome lecture on glycolysis, and well, the rest is history. I am officially hooked on the challenge of biochemistry now. And you know what? Let’s be honest here: a PhD in it would be pretty awesome…

I’m excited to see where my new, clear vision takes me. I now know that I’ve made the right choice.

Have a good weekend everyone!

-Carly

“New Theory” by Washed Out

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A Thousand Different Versions of Yourself

by Carly February 12, 2013

Let’s talk about catalysis, shall we? And, before you stop reading, I’m not eluding back to the biochemistry chapter I’ve spent the past five or six hours reading and taking notes over titled “Properties of Enzymes” (because as you and I are well aware of, the most important characteristics of these little guys is that [...]

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Never Say “Twenty Minutes Tops”

by Courtney January 21, 2013

One of the themes in Disney’s movie “The Haunted Mansion” revolved around the idea that nothing takes just twenty minutes to complete. We’ve only been back in school for a week, and, looking at the schedule, things don’t appear to be terrible. I, for one, am lucky enough to have the ultimate luxury of only [...]

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Students writing for Real Life at Fontbonne are paid a small fee for each post by the university.