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.


  • I got the exact same "interesting combination" response to my math and womens studies.

    Very informative tirade.

    By Blogger witch of agnesi, at 2:03 PM  

  • Hey Polter-Cow,
    Cool blog. I don't know much about science myself, so I can learn it from here!
    -Summer InA Bowl

    By Blogger Summer, at 4:51 AM  

  • What are the major structural and functional changes associated with diabetic nephropathy?

    Ohh...wait....that's my homework! ;oP AND it's boring. So you might want to stay away from that one.

    Can't wait to see what you DO write about, though!


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:38 PM  

  • Hey, Polter-Cow. Cool looking blog. :)

    Here's my question: have you heard of the prion protein which causes the disease kuru and CJD (also known as Mad Cow Disease) and its relevance to the fact that perhistoric human civilization had widespread cannibalism?

    (Okay, so I'm taking a Cannibalism/Anthropology course. It's pretty neat - not as good as the Cannibalism/English course I took last quarter, but still pretty cool.)


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:35 AM  

  • Dear Polter-Cow,

    I'm a second time noter. At least here. And it seems I'm working my way backwards through your entries. That said, I have a question. Perhaps it's one others have wanted to ask, but haven't had the courage to form into words and then post it so you could see it. They may have even begun typing it out from time to time, but either couldn't bring themselves to complete it, or simply click on "Publish Your Comment." But I'm feeling brave today, so I'll brake the cycle and hope for an answer.

    In your Pharmacology != Pharmacy analogy, you refer to Michael Jackson and Michael Chabon. If Pharmacology and Pharmacy were each one of these Michael's, who would be what? Or would it be what would be who? Either way, I wanna know.


    By Blogger Syd/GP, at 11:44 PM  

  • In addition, I've learned that proof reading is best before hitting "Publish Your Comment," since I know it should be "break" instead of "brake." Though, if I wanted to get technical and defensive, I could say I was, indeed, braking the cycle and being slightly non-conventional in the process.

    Once again,

    By Blogger Syd/GP, at 11:48 PM  

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    By Blogger earnest, at 4:56 AM  

  • Interesting! I am in biochem now looking into entering a masters program in pharmacology. Can you give me a feel of what pharmacology is like? More specific metabolic pathways to know? More organic chemistry to study?

    By Blogger Karen, at 4:59 PM  

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