Biochemistry is an essential subject for students of medical, dental, nursing, pharma students, and for those attending exams like USMLE, MCAT.
It is a difficult subject and quite complex to study. But one can study it well by adopting the following tips.
- Understanding the concept
- See the scope and extent of the subject.
- Do not miss the laboratory classes.
- Remember the Terminology
- Categorize the basic molecules
- Practice derivations (Remember the first and last substance of any reaction)
- Try to take in practical aspects.
So here are a few tips from my personal experience on how to study biochemistry.
During my graduation, I was taught human and clinical biochemistry.
It was my favorite subject as it is interesting and also quite challenging to master.
But if you start liking it, it will be one of your favorites as it deals with our own body physiology at the molecular level.
The Biochemistry course, as you might have noticed, will have the following.
- Chemical reactions.
- metabolic Pathways
- Graphical diagrams. etc. all related to body functions.
How to study biochemistry effectively
Understand the concepts
Biochemistry, as we know, is a subject of science. Hence we need to understand the concepts in it and not just mug up.
The subject covers aspects of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, nucleic acids, and their role in the body.
So we need to understand their source, formation, metabolism, and excretion from the body.
This makes it easier to remember and write well in exams. Further, understanding the need helps us to think of its applications during practice.
The general concepts include glucose metabolism, glycogen synthesis, fat synthesis, protein metabolism, nucleic acid synthesis, etc. So if we go one mentioning the concepts, it gets limited. There are only a fixed number of concept in biochemistry to run physiology and life. Unlike biology or chemistry, it is not unlimited or infinite.
The scope and extent of biochemistry.
Biochemistry has a wide scope ranging from plants, microbes to higher animals.
Its explains the biomolecules like enzymes, carbohydrates, toxins, and electrolytes in the living body.
So knowing biochemistry will help you know the applications in medicine, research, environment, food and other aspects.
Attend laboratory classes.
Experiments like the test for carbohydrates, proteins, blood glucose, cholesterol, creatinine, urine components are performed in the lab. These experiments help you understand the subject in terms of physiology and pathology.
Understand the terminology
Biochemistry has many terminologies in use. These terminologies are specific. Understanding the terminology gives us an idea of what the concept is about.
For example, Glycogenesis means formation of glycogen (Glycogen+ genesis). This occurs in the liver from excess glucose under the influence of harmone insulin.
There are few enzymes involved in glycoenesis pathway. So, they have related terminology like “glycogen synthase.” This means the enzymes are involved in the synthesis of glycogen.
Gluconeogenesis = formation of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources like amino-acids, proteins, and fats. (Gluco=glucose, neo=new or non-carbohydrate, genesis=formation)
Thus, understanding terminology helps you avoid confusion in biochemistry.
Categorize the basic molecules
You should know the basic molecules in biochemistry, if you want to be expert in it.
These include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, nucleic acids, and their metabolites with corresponding enzymes.
So if one is clear with biomolecules synthesis, metabolism, and excretion, the study of biochemistry will be complete.
Hence, it important for you to know the basic molecule, their structure, and physiology in the body for an easier approach to learning biochemistry.
Besides, these basic molecules are formed in different pathways. So these pathways will be less confusing if you understand their role and function in the body.
Derivations are key pathways that describe the synthesis of molecules or their breakdown.
For example synthesis of cholesterol in the body occurs from stigmasterol. This is a cyclic ring structure which involves many changes during synthesis.
These derivations involve step-by-step changes to molecules in the presence of supporting enzymes and ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Derivations, either big or small, should be understood incomplete and also practiced.
I once did understand the whole pathway and went for an exam. But during the exam, I was stuck halfway through the pathway of purine synthesis (adenine and guanine).
Though I understood the pathway well, I was stuck up with the next step and could not proceed. So ended up with just the final steps of derivation.
It scored less, but with practice, it was avoided next time. So the practice of derivations will help solve them in exams without problems.
Besides, if you remember the first and last substances in the pathway, it will be a lot easier to study.
Try to take in practical aspects.
Whatever the reactions or topics we come across in biochemistry are related to our body functions. So while studying, it is good to see the topics from day to day perspective or in common health & disease conditions.
This will build up curiosity and help in a better understanding of the topic. In the end, we will be using it as a part of our career in practice. So trying to correlate the biochemistry subject in natural and daily life will help us study better.
Besides the above tips, we need to have some clues to remember few aspects. For example activated form of the enzyme is always in phosphate form. Isomerase enzymes will produce a molecule with the same chemistry as the parent molecule with a small change in hydrogen and oxygen moieties. reductase enzymes will remove oxygen or add hydrogen. oxidase will remove hydrogen or add oxygen.
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