Protein Angst

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Protein Synthesis

And thus Protein Angst was born.

This is the blog of an aspiring science writer, a man who forsook a Ph.D. for a career in interpreting science for the layperson. Here, he seeks to reach those laypeople, to talk about science in a way they can understand. He will attempt to do this with clarity, accuracy, and frequently, humor.

Usually, he will use the first person.

My first entry here will be a short tirade on the difference between pharmacy and pharmacology. Throughout college, I was plagued with the response to my answer to the question, "What are you majoring in?" I said, "Biochemistry and English," and, nine times out of ten, I heard, "Interesting combination." Those two words, over and over. When I went to graduate school, I thought those days were behind me, but no. Now, the exchange goes like this:

"What are you studying?"
"Oh, so you're going to be a pharmacist?"

Pharmacology is not pharmacy. I don't care that they begin with the same seven letters. So do "Michael Jackson" and "Michael Chabon."

Pharmacy is defined as "the art and science of preparing, compounding, stabilizing, preserving and dispensing medications and the provision of drug and related information."

Pharmacology is defined as "the science of the action of drugs and other chemicals on living biological systems."

There is a major difference here. Pharmacy is all about drugs, and little pills, and what color they are, and about three thousand other things about the actual medicine that people take.

Pharmacology, on the other hand, is about what that medicine actually does to people inside, and, more importantly, what's going on inside those people to begin with. A pharmacologist learns about organ systems, and the interactions between cells, and the metabolism of drugs. He works to develop new understanding of the mechanisms within the body, understanding that can lead to better, safer medicine.

Pharmacology != Pharmacy.

Now that I've cleared that up, the floor is open. Feel free to ask questions at any time. My background is in biosciences, so I'm much more likely to be able to answer those sorts of questions, but I will do my best. Don't ask me your homework questions. That's cheating.

From time to time, of course, I will just wax eloquent on the wonders of mitochondria, the treachery of cytochrome c, and the use of DNA evidence in Miss Congeniality.

And to prove I know what I'm doing, here's my very first article, published in the Michigan Daily.