Essay: Overlap between biology and chemistry

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In the overlap between biology and chemistry, you are able to see not only the structures and shapes of molecules, but also the mechanisms of how they react with each other and the consequences of those reactions. Observing the pluripotent stem cell cultures that were used to discover the cause of Batten’s disease, a rare neurodegenerative disease,, furthered my intrigue and confirmed to me that I wanted to carry out my own similar research in the future. Therefore applying for natural sciences and biochemistry would allow me to develop my lab skills and further my knowledge enough for me to fulfil my aspirations. By studying the overlap between biology and chemistry, it would allow me to look at the chemical reactions that allow our body to function, as well as what has gone wrong when our body has not functioned properly.

As I mentioned before, while on work experience at the molecular biology labs in UCL, I was able to spend time shadowing Dr Little, as he continued experimental research into Batten’s Disease using stem cell cultures differentiated into neurones from both healthy patients and patients with Batten’s disease. Wanting to know more about the disease, I did my own background research and I found out that is has been linked to mutations in ten genes (CLN1-9 and CLCN 6) and many of these mutations also occur when there is a build up of the very hydrophobic subunit-C of mitochondrial ATP in the lysosomes. Each of the CLN (1-3) genes code for a different protein relating to lysosomes function and many of the other genes linked to Batten’s Disease have not been mapped and their function is still unknown. This gap of knowledge is what excites me about genetics and biochemistry, because there is still so much to discover.

I really enjoy lab work and practicals in both Biology and Chemistry A level, and I was able to put the labs skills I had developed in school to practise when at UCL I successfully carried out the preparation of RNA for a polymerase chain reaction, using unfamiliar equipment and following a protocol, alongside a PHD student, to take RNA from a cell pellet. I am self-motivated and I am good at time management, skills I was able to display when writing my EPQ on Medicine in Ancient Greece. I am also able to discuss scientific ideas, which I have done throughout this year at the weekly ‘Biology Hot Topic’ discussion groups, in which we discuss scientific stories from the news, and topics from outside our curriculum. (Also have a drop-in session with local scientists at the Wellcome Trust in the summer which I will talk about)

I think it is very important to study the overlap between two sciences, as when at Academic Saturday at Queen’s College, I attended a talk by Dr Julia Gog, in which she talked about how she uses maths, physics and biology in order to map flu pandemics and help design flu vaccinations each year. Following this talk, I read her paper ‘Influenza Virus: Its all in the packaging’. She explains that due to the virus being made up of eight parts, it makes the genetics exchange between strains much easier, in a process called reassortment, and this is the mechanism for antigenic shift. Antigenic shift is mentioned in the A level syllabus and I found it very interesting to extend my knowledge beyond this in my own time.

After my degree I would like to either do a masters or a PHD relating to genetics or the biology of diseases, and then have a career in research, helping to find the causes of communicable and genetic disease, finding out the mechanisms behind the diseases potentially helping to find a cure.

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