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Hi Deciding Upon Biochem or Physics (if physics wants to do Particle)

  1. Jun 16, 2013 #1
    This is coming from my (just graduated) High School perspective
    (also my first post :blushing:)

    I'm interested in Biochem but want to know about atomic/particle physics.

    I mean I'm interested in biochem because I want to (for a lack of a better phrase) be part of drug discovery the person (people) that "invents", researches and modify drug structures. Essentially the person on the computers and stuff NOT the person synthesizing it. When I took AP chem the few weeks after the AP exam we did Organic Chem and It was actually really interesting ( Also liked molecular Geometry, atomic struc., and electromagnetic spec. stuff). I disliked the part where I had to describe energy levels with paragraphs explaining why "x" has this struc. since h-bonds etc, since it was kind of obvious and repetitive.Although I don't know why but I feel like there's a limit that chem can do (of course this is with my limited knowledge) and it generalizes a lot I feel.

    Particle physics seems interesting because its going deeper and looking at the structure of an atom (and way farther than that) and I've noticed all the people who came up with the formulas for chemistry were physicists. Also All that CERN/Fermilab particle accelerator stuff seems cool too.

    If I were to classify myself (assuming this topic will come up) I'd classify myself as a math person :biggrin:, seeing how easily Ap calc classes came too me VS my not trying to go crazy in AP psychology (soo much reading on useless things :cry:).

    I mean If I were to do the Physics thing that mean's I'd take classes with classic mechanics and everything correct? ( It was easy in High school but it was just so boring calculating falling objects etc instead of interesting things). Also particle physics stuff is more of a Grad degree right?

    Also is there any Textbooks/Pdfs that I may want to check out (instead of using Wikipedia and reading then clicking blue text till I'm about 15 tabs in) for Particle stuff at my math level (high school ap calc 1+2)

    Also the school I'm going to I can do a 3+2 (two bachelor's) or 4+2 (one bachelor's/Master's) for Engineering

    So I could possibly do Biochem/Chem Engineering then try to do that company thing where they pay for education a bit so I can specialize in what I want.

    I also could do physics/math but I haven't look so much into it I probably have to ask my counselor about all that stuff

    Another thing to note after college is said and done wouldn't biochem offer me more opportunists than Particle Physics?

    Anyway if this was the least bit comprehensible I would like some replies (hopefully not too bias since this is the Physics forum lol) :tongue:
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 16, 2013 #2
    Oh, you think computer-based drug design is how most of drug discovery goes? Hardly. Go read In the Pipeline (a veteran medicinal chemist's blog) or The Curious Wavefunction (a computational chemist in the drug discovery field) for the real scoop. As the latter blog has noted any number of times over the years, computational/theoretical methods are still having trouble with answering far simpler physicochemical questions. The synthetic chemists are more than just trained monkeys doing what the theoreticians are telling them.

    I work with sub-micron-sized protein arrays in cell membranes on occasion. These are easily megaDalton complexes. I will let any of the theoretical chemists on the forum tell you just how well we can model physicochemical properties using solely quantum mechanical methods and expect chemical-grade accuracy in terms of size/number of atoms. The sorts of methods I see people using on the problems I work on are more like these, to give you a hint.

    The 'limits' are more due to separation of time, length, and energy scales that vary between what chemists and physicists like to study. As an example, the intricate details of nuclear structure are not, insofar as any of us can tell, relevant to magnetic resonance studies of enzyme kinetics that might take minutes to run to completion in a sample volume.

    Well, do you want to look at the structure of atoms or figure out how to develop drugs? The good thing is that you don't have to choose just yet. (I am deducing that you as you took AP courses, you're in the US.) Outside of certain schools, most will not have an issue with you deciding to major in both physics and biochemistry, doing undergraduate research in both, and then making a choice. Insofar as the other bit, chemistry and physics used to be far closer in terms of what made up their 'cutting-edge' of research. As I'm fond of noting when this comes up, Rutherford (he of physics vs. stamp collecting fame) is a chemistry Nobel laureate. Also, particle accelerators are developed & used elsewhere - for example, the Spallation Neutron Source uses a particle accelerator to generate neutrons for research ranging from physics to chemistry to biology to engineering. Everything from fundamental physical measurements to determining (low-resolution) structures of biological assemblies can be done.

    The first year and a bit of second year for most natural science & engineering students is fairly similar, at least in the broad strokes (at least in the US) - you've got your various calculus and linear algebra courses, the introductory calculus-based physics courses, introductory chemistry (at least IMO - even physics and engineering students had to take the standard intro chemistry sequence, or place out of it), a writing/composition course, and whatever other university-wide general education requirements might be waiting. Generally, if you want to pursue engineering, there were will be other courses that need to be slotted in there. You don't need to commit right away to a particular path.

    Insofar as long-term opportunities, I couldn't dare make any presumptions. I'm finding it hard enough to prognosticate for the next year or so (which is daunting as I'm starting to look for a new position presently). Will there be career opportunities for someone with education & experience in the natural sciences/engineering? Sure. What they are, you'll have to wait for someone else to venture a guess, as I've always been surprised by what I've heard from employers.
  4. Jun 17, 2013 #3
    I'll keep this in mind (about the trained monkey part xD).

    Ok this seems interesting, I'd probably check out a few articles about the Gaussian network model with Google searches.

    Really, I didn't know all of that can be done, I thought it'd be limited majority to Physics/Chem. Although majority of the time what type of Physicist would be interpreting the data and calculating different things vs the ones experimenting? (I'm assuming different types work together on this not just "Particle" Physicists, although this might be a hard question to answer since they work together)

    Thank you for your time on this thread I appreciate it :approve:,I'll be sure to read blogs from time to time.

    Although I did think most drug design was done on computers I mean if I wanted to do drug designing/modeling what type of chemist would I want to be to have an "advantage" over others on that topic? I thought since the world is moving closer to computers everyday and to add to that It'd take a few years for me to be in college that computational chemistry is best suited for it?
  5. Jun 18, 2013 #4
    The take-home message is to keep in mind that what you're interested in will determine how you study it. Very often, some amount of generalization is needed, given that one can get buried under extraneous details very quickly if not careful.

    So, the practical situation is a bit more complicated - what is typically the case is that you have a neutron source, and it supplies multiple instruments, each designed to do certain general things well (e.g., the fundamental physics instruments aren't the same ones that are used for structure determination of various materials). But, for example, all using the same instrument, one can study inorganic nanowires just as well as membrane proteins, as well as magnetic materials, superconductors, and polymers. Generally, one gets into this sort of research via condensed matter physics, physical chemistry, chemical engineering or materials science. I think the neat division of labor you're envisioning isn't there - yes, there are some people who are more theoretical in nature, and some who are more experimental, but that doesn't translate into "the experimentalists conduct the experiment and just hand over the data over to the theoreticians to analyze and interpret." I think you are underestimating the ability of experimentalists and overestimating the ability of theoreticians there. ;)

    You're quite welcome. I wouldn't want to minimize the utility of computational skills and programming experience, and certainly there are roles for computational chemists in the drug discovery field. But, truth be told, there's still a lot of empiricism and "chemical intuition" involved in this area, as well as just fundamental biochemical discovery going on here. You could go at things from a more computational/theoretical approach, of course. But you're going to be part of a larger effort, ranging from structural biology to high-throughput screening to revived integrative physiology/pharmacology efforts. Take the one that suits your temperament and interests best, and is the most interesting to you personally.
  6. Jun 18, 2013 #5
    This statement says a lot to me. I am not saying that if you don't like basic physics you won't like any physics, but the fact that you found it "so boring" doesn't say much for your zeal about the topic. You seem to have much greater interest in the chemical/biomedical option. Particle physics is not like a Michio Kaku book, it is a lot of intensive calculations and mathematical abstractions, so consider this moving forward.

    And as a side note, a lot of drug development and biomedical research similar to what you describe is done within the field of Chemical Engineering.
  7. Jun 19, 2013 #6
    I just thought basic physics is too well idk, maybe too easy( I only did Algebra based)? I kind of liked satellite motion, Gravity problems where you have to calculate it on diff. planets,and maybe reflection/refraction of light. Also I was kind of disappointed that we didn't go over anything even remotely on atoms at all except talking about electron flow of circuits.I received an A in that class without even studying anything (while many others I knew struggled receiving "C"s on tests).

    I did not have the opportunity to do calculus based physics sadly.

    In my school they require you take Earth Science so essentially you had to double up twice. I did that however my AP classes (esp. AP Chem) plus the school's requirements on classes made scheduling conflicts. Also I've noticed in my HS they were bias towards kids who were "gifted" ( I didn't take a test since my parents didn't think it necessary in elementary school) in the fact they made schedule changes and stuff for them. The funny part is that I took more AP classes than most "gifted" kids, and was ranked higher in my class then most of them >.>.
    (^^^lol I guess I wrote a life story here huh xD?)

    I knew a few people who took AP Physics and I was able to see/sove some of their worksheets and the problems were more interesting but not to the point that I was "having the time of my life".

    qsmith, thanks for your reply and I will consider what you said and also the whole Michio Kaku book thing xD. Atm I am listed as a double major Biochem/ChemE at my college. They do require you to take Physics so I think what I am going to do is if I end up liking Physics over Chem. I could always switch. However I just wish I knew 100% exactly what I want to do now instead of later :/
  8. Jun 20, 2013 #7
    I wish you the best of luck moving forward!
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