This year it was finally time for me to take my chemistry electives, the classes that will afford me a "biochemistry
" concentration under my chemistry degree. While those words likely won't show up on my transcript, these classes are ultimately the reason I chose to study chemistry.
Sophomore year I was confused about how I wanted to spend my time as an undergraduate. I knew that I wanted to go to medical school, but I enjoyed general chemistry more than general biology, yet at the time I was a biology major
. I took this as a sign that I might want to study chemistry, and subsequently I changed my major to chemistry halfway through my sophomore year while I was taking organic chemistry. I started doing research in a medicinal chemist's lab, and I was convinced enough to change my major.
My favorite chemistry class has been the yearlong sequence of biochemistry, and this year I am taking three chemistry electives in fulfillment of my concentration. Last quarter I wrote about chemical biology. This quarter I'm taking medicinal chemistry.
The class has changed my perspective on the pharmaceutical industry because I now actually realize how difficult the drug design and approval process is. The class is an introduction to the drug development and design process, from finding a target to finding a drug that acts at that target. We're learning to analyze pharmacodynamics
data. Pharmacodynamics is the investigation of how well a drug works once it gets to its target (could be an enzyme in a specific tissue or cell type, or a receptor for neurotransmitters, among many things). Pharmacokinetics deals with what the body does to the drug before it gets to its target. After all, we're putting foreign substances in to our body so our body is going to do everything it can to get rid of that drug.
You can watch a video below about medicinal chemistry:
This class has built extensively on knowledge from organic chemistry. Not a class goes by where we don't explain something using organic chemistry principles. We're learning the ways that chemists can alter drug solubility, polarity, reactivity with off-target enzymes, and acid-base properties. These methods and many others yield an understanding of how the structure of a drug can be altered to make it more potent at its target tissue and more selective/less toxic (less side effects).
In the next few weeks we will examine computer aided drug design and development. I'm especially excited for this portion of the class because of the role that technology will continue to play in science and medicine. It's a really neat way to bridge between my chemistry studies and my future studies in medical school. The analytical skills we're developing in this class, and many others, will translate in our future careers and academic pursuits.