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My Mind Palace
A compilation of my thoughts, feelings, opinions, day to day stuff and miscellaneous stuff....
About my career
So today I've decided to talk a bit about my major, that is biochemical engineering and why I chose it; what does it give the world and where all I'm gonna be involved in.

Biochemical Engineering is basically chemical engineering with due consideration to biology. We share a lot of courses with the chemical engineers and the key elements are essentially the same. Biochemical Engineering is the engineering associated with designing and developing processes associated with using a living organism to generate products. If there's a product that you get from a living organism like say a bacteria or a fungi or if the bacteria itself is the product, we're gonna have to make a reactor that will allow this bacteria to grow en mass and produce the product for us and then we'll have to isolate the product and prepare it for the consumers. We could liken it to making a habitable conditions in a space ship, with life support systems and all. In fact your could say that the space ships, starship enterprise and battlestar galactica are all bioreactors because, they create conditions to sustain life and they get the product in terms of human activity. So we design and develop these bioreactors and optimize them for maximum efficiency. I hope that was enough for you all to understand what biochemical engineering is all about.

There is one more thing. Each time we conduct a bioprocess, the results should be, as much as possible, the same. We need to get the same product each time, with the same efficiency, and in the case of a lower efficiency, understand why the lower efficiency occurred and accordingly take steps to prevent it in the future. Now you may all think that we could just use the same bioreactor over and over again and always 2+2 = 4 like a calculator. But that's not the case, Because, bioreactors are a smaller version of the conventional factories that we see around. In a conventional factory, you see workers all making one product. Now the product from one factory may not be the same as the product from another factory. Two factories will always create different products unless there's careful coordination between them. Even then the production capabilities may be different due to worker conditions. It's because, life itself is unpredictable. But we biochemical engineers try to make it as predictable as possible. Try to lay it down in simple math.

Fortunately, microorganisms are easier to understand. Less variations and at least to our knowledge more consistent in their behavior, If things go wrong in their behavior, we can pinpoint what went wrong. Bacteria and Fungi are relatively simple to understand, because, they're small, and bacteria like E.Coli are prokaryotic; thereby much more simple. As we go to larger sizes, organisms become more complex. They become harder to predict but still, predictable.

Mammalian cells, i.e. cells obtained from animals; they are larger and more fragile. So fragile, that you'd wonder how our own cells are still in our body. (The answer to that is tissue and organs, the coordination between cells, keeps the cells together)
Mammalian cells are my thing lol. I specialize in them. I've worked on them and they're sure as hell, a pain in the a**. Always prone to contaminants, always something or the other happens if you're not careful. You can grow bacteria in an open room but you can't grow a Chinese hamster ovary cells even in a closed room. Gotta have special 'Clean' rooms for that. And even in those clean rooms we have to be careful and precise.

And now the question arises, why bother with mammalian cells? Because the drugs that you get in the hospital and at the pharmacist, they're all from mammalian cells. Mammalian cells being more complex and larger, can synthesize larger proteins. And one of these large proteins can prevent a side chain in the biochemical metabolism of our body, preventing the growth of a cancerous cell and killing them. Some of these proteins are antibodies, monoclonal antibodies. Everyone knows what an antibody is. A compound that attaches itself on the dangerous substances in the body and marks them for destruction. Monoclonal antibodies are complex proteins and are strictly mammalian cell culture products and are the cure to cancer, Alzheimer's and other deadly diseases. Other products from mammalian cells are various proteins that the body needs, growth factors etc, Adrenalin etc.

So that's where my job comes. These mammalian cells are fragile, prone to contamination. So I have to design systems and develop and analyse processes that ensure mammalian cell cultures grow and produce that product that we need and I also need to isolate that product. The production capacity is low but even small quantities are extremely potent. So we'll have to extract these small quantities from the rest of the culture which would include byproducts, cells, debris and the raw materials. So we have to employ effective protein chemistry to pull out the proteins, as much as possible till we attain a near 100% purity and a good quantity.

So biochemical engineers primarily work in biopharmaceutical and life science firms. producing drugs that save lives and make the world a safer place.

We also have a role to play in food technology as well, but I'm not so much into that (even though I'm a foodie). But my main goal is to help in the cure for cancer and other dangerous diseases and help make the world a better place.

DrNadi91
Community Member
  • [06/11/14 05:08am]
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