Becoming a Biophysical Chemist
So you think you might like to become a biophysical chemist? Biophysical chemistry is an area of science where scientists apply physical chemistry and physics to the study of biological systems. One area of research in this field seeks to explain phenomena present in the biological processes by looking at molecules and supramolecular structures. This field attempts to decode the laws of nature by researching how thing work at the molecular level. A great example of this is determining how nerve cells communicate. Biophysical chemists might attach colors to the proteins attached to different chemical messengers in order to create a map of how communication works between a nerve cell and the brain.
Employers can include engineering, physical and life sciences companies, colleges and universities and pharmaceutical manufacturers. Workers may be part of research and development teams,and some research projects may be dependent on grant-funding to stay afloat. Aspiring biophysical chemists can expect a highly competitive job search.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many employers look for candidates with a doctoral degree (or Ph.D.) in biochemistry or a related field. Biophysical chemists can work in research positions for pharmaceutical companies or government agencies, as well as other private and public labs.
So what are the career requirements?
|Degree Level||Doctoral degree (Ph.D.)|
|Degree Field||Chemistry, biochemistry, or related field|
|Experience||None with the right degree offering internships, research work, and lab work|
|Key Skills||Interpersonal skills, communication skills, observation skills, computer modeling software skills; strong science and math background|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$82,150 (for all biochemists and biophysicists)|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Yale University, Department of Chemistry
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Students who want to enter the biophysical chemistry profession can start by earning a bachelor's degree in biochemistry or chemistry. This training will include science courses such as general and organic chemistry, biochemistry, biophysical chemistry, physics, and cell biology. Math courses in calculus and analytical geometry are also featured, along with a strong biochemistry lab component for learning about research and how to operate specialized equipment.
- Participate in undergraduate research. Gaining research experience is imperative for aspiring biophysical chemists. In addition to lab courses, students can work an internship or take part in formal undergraduate research opportunities.
- Build teamwork skills. It is likely that biophysical chemists will collaborate with scientists in other fields. Students can develop communication and collaborative skills by choosing to work on team projects, volunteering for team-based community service, and joining student clubs.
Step 2: Complete Graduate Studies
To be considered for many research positions, biophysical chemists need a Ph.D. While there are few Ph.D. programs in biophysical chemistry, candidates can also opt for a Ph.D. in chemistry and customize their research to focus on their area of interest in biophysical chemistry. Research progress and knowledge may be tested through a series of exams.
Step 3: Build a Network
Students can build a network by joining professional organizations and attending scientific meetings. By establishing relationships with peers, faculty, and other researchers, Ph.D. candidates can gain visibility within the profession. Networking may also enhance research opportunities and career advancement.
Earning a bachelor's degree, completing graduate studies, and building a network are great steps to follow to make the most of a career as a biophysical chemist.