MU biochemistry department celebrates milestones

The department of biochemistry at the University of Missouri had a lot to celebrate this year — the 40th anniversary of the department and the 100th birthday of one of its most beloved professors, Boyd O’Dell.

These milestones and more were recognized Friday, Sept. 2, during events in Schweitzer Hall and the Bond Life Sciences Center. Events included a tour of the biochemistry department, a luncheon with graduate students and postdocs and various speakers.

The biochemistry department began as a merger between agricultural chemistry and medical biochemistry, according to Joe Polacco, emeritus professor of biochemistry.

“There are two fairly different [administrative] cultures involved there,” Polacco said. “But, it became obvious to people in both schools that merging the two departments, in a disciplinary sense… was wise.”

Polacco said there could be various links between the two programs.

“You don’t just arbitrarily separate agricultural chemistry from medical biochemistry,” he said. “For one thing the metabolism, the biochemistry of each (plants vs animals) is very similar in many ways, and another thing is we eat plants. We feed plants to our animals; there could be diseases, there could be parasites, there’s all kinds of linkages.”

According to Polacco, students in the program can be involved in research if they choose to be.

“Though not all students want a research experience, we do what we can to involve them in laboratories and research,” Polacco said. “They often start off doing menial things to learn the operation of a lab. They might keep the glassware clean, or make reagents. If students really want to, they can associate with a lab throughout four years and at the end be involved in publishing in a scientific journal.”

Sharien Fitriasari, a senior undergraduate biochemistry student from Indonesia, said that she chose to come to the MU for many reasons. MU has an affiliation with a university in Indonesia, and is well known for its life sciences program. She also appreciates the kind people at MU.

“People in here are very supportive,” Fitriasari said. “When you are insecure about your intellectual or about your communication skill, people will always support you.”

Fitriasari said that the biochemistry department has helped her prepare for her future. After graduation she plans to go to go to graduate school.

“I kinda want to go into nutrition, but I am not sure,” Fitriasari said. “But I definitely want to go to grad school after graduation.”

Fitriasari was also a part of the Life Science Undergraduate Research Opportunity internship where she worked with Judy Wall, who is a professor in biochemistry department.

Maggie Resor

About the Author Maggie Resor

I am a freshman science and agricultural journalism major at MU. I am from Chillicothe, Missouri, a small town about an hour and a half north of Kansas City. Chillicothe is also known for being the “Home of Sliced Bread.” During the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of high school, I attended Joseph Baldwin Academy, a summer academic camp. While at Joseph Baldwin Academy I took a class about journalism. This is where my interest in journalism began. I love telling other people’s stories. I chose to major in science and agricultural journalism, because I can communicate the importance of agriculture in our everyday lives.