University of Minnesota

Biochemistry Student Profile

Name: Kate Lauer

Anticipated Graduation Year: 2018

Hometown: Eau Claire, WI

How and why did you choose your major?

Throughout middle and high school, I had excellent math and science teachers. Their passion and enthusiasm engaged me and got drew me to the field of science. One course in particular, a biotechnology course I took my junior year of high school, really influenced my major choice. It exposed me to the world of molecular biology and the amazing things scientists can do with DNA, a field previously unbeknownst to me. When it came time to choose a major, I knew I wanted to pursue a field with real-world applications that was both challenging and rewarding. I did some research about majors in the biological sciences such as biology, genetics, and biochemistry and ultimately chose biochemistry because it aligned with my interests best.

Please give a description (in your words) of your major including the things you learn, favorite classes, and any challenges you have faced.

Biochemistry takes the principles of molecular biology and looks at them through a chemical lens. Understanding and exploring the structure and function of biological molecules like proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates is a primary focus of the biochemistry major. Ultimately, all the small details are applied to understanding metabolic pathways and gene expression. Biochemistry core classes focus on metabolism, DNA synthesis and replication, and gene expression. Elective courses vary greatly but include topics like biotechnology, protein engineering, biology of cancer, and stem cells. So far, my favorite courses have been BIOC 4332: Molecular Mechanisms of Signal Transduction and Gene Expression, BIOL 4003: Genetics, and CHEM 2311: Organic Chemistry Lab. The most challenging part about the biochemistry major is the amount of detailed information covered. It can be hard to memorize and process all the material covered in the courses to a degree where applying the concepts becomes second nature. However, the courses are very interesting and the content is widely applicable to many facets of life and related to lots of career fields. It is definitely worth pursuing biochemistry if the field truly intrigues you!

What types of experiences outside of the classroom have you had relating to your major? (i.e. clubs, jobs, internships, volunteering, study abroad etc.)

Beginning my freshman year, I became involved in a research lab on campus. I have found working in the lab really bolsters my understanding of the content in my classes, and my lab skills develop and become proficient much faster than some of my peers. I have also worked with the Nature of Life program, during both the academic year and the summer orientation program at Lake Itasca. This year, I am working as a TA for the Foundations of Biology bioinformatics lab section. Overall, getting involved with opportunities related to my major has positively impacted my connections, confidence, and understanding!

In your opinion, what is one thing, or one piece of advice that other students pursuing your major should know?

One piece of advice for students pursuing a biochemistry major is to work hard and never give up! I know it is terribly cliché, but doing your best and seeking help when you need it is the best way to succeed, especially since you are rapidly exposed to lots of challenging material. Use your classmates as a resource: if it is hard for you, it is also likely hard for them. Finally, do not pursue a biochemistry major just because it “looks good” on a resume or application. It is a lot of work if you are not truly engaged and interested in the content.

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