Chemiosmosis is not an inspiring word to a poet. Through a long series of administrative confusions and a perceived lack of science credit, I was pushed to take another science class my senior year. I remembered liking biology in freshman year, and I realized that AP Biology would help my understanding of environmental science. Three weeks into the school year, I entered the class, woefully behind in reading and missing labs and assessments. I lived my life from between the pages of Campbell's Biology, 7th edition, and I regretted every moment spent studying metabolic pathways and dynein arms.
But then I came to chemiosmosis, the last process in cellular respiration. I traced the diagram in the book, following the H+ ions across the inner mitochondrial membrane with one finger, pulling the electrons through the proteins within the membrane. Following the electron transport chain, H+ travels across the membrane, forming a proton gradient. Chemiosmosis describes the process in which H+ diffuses back across the membrane through ATP synthase, an enzyme that phosphorylates ADP and creates ATP, the energy "currency" for the cell.
I sat there, tracing over and over, talking to the proteins and H+ ions, waiting until the information filtered into my brain. Suddenly, my finger stopped and I looked up to where my face was reflected in the dark window. My eyebrows were almost to my hairline. The cycle was genius; chemiosmosis sang poetry.
Each protein, electron, and oxygen molecule builds relationships with other molecules. But these alliances constantly change, based on the varying chemical ingredients of each molecule and its position in relation to the other components of the cell. They are just like humans, constantly bumping and moving, attracted by certain members, passing through relationships, but all working toward a common goal: the formation of ATP. The cycle works perfectly, and it alarmed me, shaking my disinterest toward biology.
Chemiosmosis swelled away from the molecular level until it encompassed the entire world. The relationships formed at the molecular level fueled my world, from the fingers that traced the H+ ions to the ATP that allowed my heart to beat. One diagram showed the completeness of biology, crafted as carefully as any poem. Biology was no longer about memorization, but about connections and relationships. Chemiosmosis became the stained glass window in my cathedral of biology, the stunning piece that inspired a deeper understanding.
Biology tempts me now, drawing me from my beloved Vergil lines and essays on Shakespeare, and I crave understanding of cellular respiration, photosynthesis, and evolution. My questioning brain found a niche, where some queries are answerable and others remain mysteries; biology captivates my intellect, all because of one diagram, one explanation, one cycle of chemiosmosis.