What is Biochemistry?

Biochemistry is the branch of science concerned with the chemistry of living organisms. The discipline stands at the crossroads between the physical sciences (chemistry and physics) and the life sciences (microbiology, genetics, botany, and zoology). All organisms are constructed from complex biomolecules that interact to form cells, tissues and organs, and the chemical reactions between the molecules form the basis of life. Biochemistry studies the structure, behaviour, and interaction of these complex biomolecules. The field has many branches, including the molecular basis of health and disease, the development of medicines and vaccines in the pharmaceutical industry, the manipulation of industrially beneficial organisms and proteins to produce desirable products in the biotechnology industry, and the study of metabolism, and cellular signalling, and bioinformatics.

Multiple techniques are used in the department, with some overlap in microbiology and biochemistry projects. These include isolating, cultivating and characterising microorganisms, and investigating the interactions between microbes and other organisms, as well as with their natural and artificial environments; characterising and manipulating the DNA, RNA and proteins of an organism; using host cells to produce desired proteins and compounds; analysing the metabolic processes and compounds produced by organisms; and determining the structures of proteins.

What do Biochemists do?

Biochemists work in laboratories at unravelling complex chemical reactions that form the basis of life. Topics studied by biochemists at the UFS include: 

  • the development of novel medicines and vaccines
  • investigating viruses
  • studying the atomic structure of proteins
  • developing green chemistry processes to produce desirable compounds in an environmentally-friendly manner
  • characterising steroids from various organisms
  • food biochemistry

Biochemistry Lecturers


Elfrieda van den Berg (Marketing Manager)
T: +27 51 401 2531

Dilahlwane Mohono (Faculty Officer)
T: +27 58 718 5284

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