Protein biochemistry is a scientific field dedicated to the study of proteins, complex chains of amino acids which make up the building blocks of all living organisms. Proteins are responsible for everything from the physical structure of an organism to the activities of the nervous system, making them of critical interest to people working in the biosciences. Colleges and universities may offer protein biochemistry as a part of their biochemistry programs for students interested in this topic, and people can also study protein biochemistry in private laboratories, government agencies, and the labs of charitable organizations.
Biochemistry itself is concerned with the complex chemistry of living organisms, including the chemical structure of the components of living organisms, the chemical interactions which occur in the body, and the errors in chemistry which contribute to disease and disability. In protein biochemistry, biochemists specially study proteins. These complex polymers yield a great deal of study material, as a single protein can occupy a researcher for life, and the body contains a myriad of proteins.
The study of protein biochemistry involves the study of the chemical structure of proteins, looking at the individual amino acids and how they link together, and the physical structure of proteins. Proteins are three dimensional in nature, and their shape can dictate their function. Changes in the shape of a protein can change the way it works, contribute to the development of new proteins, and contribute to the emergence of malignancies.
Researchers are also interested in the chemical reactions which involve proteins. These reactions are usually mediated by enzymes, which are also a topic of interest in protein biochemistry. Researchers can study protein expression, looking at the ways in which proteins express themselves and dictate various activities within the body, along with the ways in which proteins can be used. For example, the isolation of a specific protein on a medical test can be used to check for signs of disease in a patient.
People who work in the field of protein biochemistry generally have advanced degrees which may include postgraduate work. They can study proteins in humans or other organisms, and their pay can vary, depending on the type of research they do and the labs that they work in. Knowledge of protein chemistry can also be important for people working in other branches of biochemistry and in the life sciences in general, and protein biochemists may be part of scientific teams working on topics of medical or scientific interest.