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Do you study organic chemistry before biochemistry?

  1. Mar 26, 2011 #1


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    My studies have nothing to do with biology, but I'm just a curious gal so I thought to pick up some ebooks or whatever. I got a good biology base and a good chemistry base, but I never tackled anything in the realm of organic chemistry. I'm more interested in learning about the chemistry of living things than organic chemistry in general and what we can do with it. I'm not sure what's the official study order. Should I take on organic chemistry first or can I start right away with biochemistry?
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  3. Mar 26, 2011 #2


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    As a biochemist, I would recommend taking introductory organic chemistry before taking biochemistry. Organic chemistry introduces you to many concepts about chemical reactions that are important to know for biochemistry. For example, organic chemistry will give you a sense of the basic properties and reactivities of many functional groups in chemistry. This knowledge is essential to understanding the properties of the various biomolecules you will encounter in biochemistry. Similarly organic chemistry teaches the basics of understanding chemical reaction mechanisms, such as the concepts of nucleophiles and electrophiles, and how to "push electrons" to understand why one functional group will react with another. Without this basic knowledge, it would be very difficult to understand the enzyme mechanisms you learn about in biochemistry.

    In essence, if you are interested in the chemistry of living things, organic chemistry (as well as physical chemistry) teaches you the basic set of rules by which biochemical systems work. Biochemistry shows you how these rules are applied in practice inside a living organism.
  4. Mar 26, 2011 #3


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    Great post, thank you.
  5. Mar 26, 2011 #4
    dear Femme_physics,

    i'm a chemist and my dad was, too. i'd definitely recommend that you take organic chem before biochem, as the latter builds on the former. for what it's worth, my favorite is physical chemistry, especially thermodynamics.

  6. Mar 27, 2011 #5
    If you are seeking a deep understanding of the subject matter, I agree with the sequence of organic chemistry followed by biochemistry.

    However, if your goal is primarily self erudition and your area of interest is in the functioning of living things, I suggest you skip both organic and biochem and pick up a cellular and molecular biology book, such as Molecular Biology of the Cell (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21054/). Such a text provides enough rudimentary biochemistry material (very little if any organic) to be able to understand the following chapters yet will take you through many more topics of closer relevance to living things. Again, this is not a recommendation for course order, only for the more casual learning that seems closer to how I interpreted your stated goal.
  7. Mar 27, 2011 #6
    Organic chemistry is an absolute prerequisite to studying biochemistry at any serious level.
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