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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists D Chemistry Panel Summary The Chemistry panel met at the National Academy of Sciences building on February 15-16, 2001. They discussed the similarities and differences between undergraduate educations in biology versus chemistry. The following report includes examples of several initiatives in chemistry designed to improve undergraduate education. EXPERTISE OF MEMBERS OF THE PANEL Ronald Breslow is a University Professor and professor of chemistry and professor of biology at Columbia University. His research in bioorganic and physical organic chemistry includes the development of novel molecules and artificial enzymes. He is a former president of the American Chemical Society and was named “one of the top 75 contributors to the chemical enterprise in the past 75 years” by a 1997 poll conducted by Chemical and Engineering News. Among his many honors are the National Medal of Science and the Priestley Medal. He holds membership in the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society of Great Britain and the Royal Society of Chemistry of London, as well as honorary membership in the Indian Academy of Sciences and the Japanese Chemical Society. He received the Columbia University Great Teacher Award and the Mark van Doren Medal for teaching, also awarded by Columbia Univer-
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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists sity. His major research interest is currently the preparation of artificial enzymes that can imitate the function of natural enzymes. His graduate students typically design a potential catalyst on the computer, synthesize it, and then determine its catalytic effectiveness and the mechanism involved. His lab also synthesizes molecules that mimic antibodies or biological receptor sites; they construct molecules that will bind to polypeptides with sequence selectivity in water, using mainly hydrophobic interactions. He has bachelor’s and PhD degrees in chemistry from Harvard University as well as a master’s in medical science, also from Harvard. Arthur Ellis is Meloche-Bascom Professor of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. His research program focuses on materials chemistry, including the use of the photoluminescence of semiconductors to develop new classes of chemical sensors. He received the American Chemical Society’s George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education in 1997 and the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1989. He is the co-developer of modern instructional materials based on cutting-edge research, including texts, kits, demonstrations, and laboratory experiments. He also co-developed the Web site Innovations in SMET Education for the National Institute for Science Education. He co-organized a National Science Foundation workshop on the impact of technology on undergraduate mathematics and physical sciences. He served on the NRC Committee on Undergraduate Science Education from 1998 to 2000. He teaches chemistry at UW-Madison at the introductory, advanced undergraduate, and graduate level. He has a bachelor’s degree from California Institute of Technology and a PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both in chemistry. Marc Loudon is Gustav E. Cwalina Distinguished Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and associate dean for research and graduate programs in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Purdue University. He specializes in teaching organic chemistry to prepharmacy students and in developing group-study techniques for the course. His research interests are in the area of bioorganic chemistry, with specific interests in the HIV protease, carboxy-terminal peptide degradation, and peptide synthesis. In 2000, Loudon was named Indiana Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. In 1999 he received the Charles B. Murphy Award, the Purdue University-wide teaching award. He was twice selected for the Henry Heine Award for Outstanding Teacher in Purdue’s pharmacy school. Before coming to Purdue, he received the
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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists Clark Teaching Prize from Cornell University’s College of Arts and Sciences. He was also awarded Purdue’s Helping Students Learn Award for developing innovative teaching techniques and has been instrumental in promoting undergraduate research programs in the pharmacy school. He is the author of Organic Chemistry, 3rd edition (Benjamin/Cummings) and study guides and animations on compact disk that accompany that text. The 4th edition of Organic Chemistry is under development and will be published by Oxford University Press. He is on the faculty of The Chemistry Place, a Web chemistry instructional project developed by Peregrine Publishers, Inc., and now owned by Addison-Wesley. He also served as co-chair of the committee that developed the Purdue University Teaching Evaluation System that is now being implemented. His current interests are in university administration, teaching, and the development of instructional materials. He is also co-editor, with Ken Houk of UCLA, of the Organic Chemistry Monograph Series of Oxford University Press. In collaboration with George Bodner in the Division of Chemical Education at Purdue, he has been developing a group-study approach to teaching organic chemistry, which has been implemented in the past several years in organic chemistry courses at Purdue. His research interests are in the area of bioorganic chemistry, with specific interests in the HIV protease, carboxy-terminal peptide degradation, and peptide synthesis. He received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Louisiana State University and a PhD in physical-organic chemistry from University of California at Berkeley. Jerry Mohrig is Herman and Gertrude Mosier Stark Professor in the Natural Sciences and professor of the natural sciences at Carleton College. His research is on the stereochemistry of base-catalyzed, addition-elimination reactions involving conjugated carbonyl compounds and the nature of biochemical catalysis by enzymes, its spatial characteristics, and evolution. Research in his group includes the stereochemistry of base-catalyzed, addition-elimination reactions involving conjugated carbonyl compounds among other topics, and over the past 25 years, it has involved over 130 undergraduate colleagues. He is the recipient of the 1989 James Flack Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry, given each year by the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society, and the Catalyst Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Chemistry (1978), from the Chemical Manufacturers Association. From 1989 to 1996, he served on the leadership committee for Project Kaleidoscope. He was a member of the NRC Advisory Board for the Center for Science,
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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists Mathematics, and Engineering Education from 1995 to 1998. He is a member of the executive committee and the Molecular Basis of Life working group of the ChemLinks Coalition, an NSF-funded curriculum development project in undergraduate chemical education. He served as chair, treasurer, and president of the Council on Undergraduate Research. He was the chairman of the education and human resources committee of the Midwestern Association of Chemistry Teachers in Liberal Arts Colleges. He teaches introductory, organic, and bioorganic chemistry. He received a BS in chemistry from the University of Michigan and a PhD in chemistry from the University of Colorado. Jeanne Pemberton is a professor of chemistry at the University of Arizona. Her research examines processes occurring at the surfaces of solids and the interfacial regions between phases. Specific interfacial systems of interest include electrochemical battery and electroluminescent and electrochromic devices; organized molecular assemblies at solid surfaces or air-water interfaces; chromatography stationary phase systems; soil and mineral systems important in the fate and transport of environmentally important chemicals; and surfaces such as ice, mineral acids, and alkali halides important in atmospheric processes. In 1990 and 1998, she received an award for special creativity from the National Science Foundation. She has also received the University of Arizona College of Science Distinguished Teaching Award and Faculty of Science Innovation in Teaching Award. She has served on the American Chemical Society’s Committee on Professional Training and the NRC’s Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology. For the National Science Foundation she has participated in a workshop on curricular reform in the analytical sciences and a review panel on course and curriculum reform/undergraduate faculty enhancement. She was a workshop leader for a Project Kaleidoscope session on “Making Connections: Is Chemistry the Central Science?” and served on a Department of Energy review panel on genome instrumentation research. She has a BS in chemistry and a BA in biology from the University of Delaware. Her PhD in chemistry is from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dale Poulter holds the John A. Widtsoe Distinguished Chair in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Utah. His research group works on problems at the interface between organic chemistry and biochemistry, including the mechanisms of the enzyme-catalyzed transformations and how the enzymes promote the reactions of the isoprene biosynthetic path-
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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists way. He also works on structure-function relationships in nucleic acids, in particular the topologies of complex naturally occurring RNAs, how their shapes relate to biological function, and what governs their interactions with other biopolymers during protein biosynthesis. His research group is interested in problems at the interface between organic chemistry and biochemistry. A major focus is the reactions catalyzed by enzymes in the isoprene biosynthetic pathway with special emphasis on establishing the mechanisms of the enzyme-catalyzed transformations and how the enzymes promote the reactions. Another area of interest is structure-function relationships in nucleic acids, in particular the topologies of complex naturally occurring RNAs, how their shapes relate to biological function and what governs their interactions with other biopolymers during protein biosynthesis. He was awarded the C. Cope Scholar Award of the American Chemical Society and serves on the ACS Committee on Professional Training. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He received a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University and a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley. Sheldon Wettack is vice president and dean of faculty and professor of chemistry at Harvey Mudd College. He also attended the Institute for Educational Management at Harvard University. His initial academic appointment was in the chemistry department at Hope College, where he mentored about 30 undergraduates with support from a variety of individual research grants, including a Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award. His administrative work began when he was appointed dean for the natural sciences at Hope. He has served at the University of Richmond as arts and sciences dean and as president of Wabash College. He moved to Harvey Mudd in 1993. He is currently the project director of Harvey Mudd’s NSF-AIRE grant and of the Claremont Colleges’ technology grant from the Mellon Foundation. He has an AB and MA from San Jose State College and a PhD in physical chemistry from University of Texas-Austin. REPORT OF THE CHEMISTRY PANEL Much of modern biology has become increasingly chemical in character. This has always been true of biochemistry and medicinal chemistry, but molecular biology, genetics, cell biology, proteomics, physiology, microbiology, neurobiology, agriculture, and many other divisions of biology are now using chemistry as a major part of their language and their re-
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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists search. The trend will continue, as more and more biological phenomena are explained in fundamental chemical terms. Many biology departments recognize this reality and trend and require significant numbers of chemistry courses for their majors. The panel recommended that all future biological research students have an effective working knowledge of concepts and skills in chemistry (as listed in Chapter 2 of the committee report). In order to achieve such knowledge, formal courses are needed. Students who are planning on careers in biological research should take at least two years of chemistry courses taught in chemistry departments. Furthermore, even those biology students whose career goals are unsure should take such a program. It will be important and is normally required for medical students; those in allied fields such as nursing, or in biology-based fields such as agriculture, will be well served by having a basic understanding of chemistry. Their education is preparing them for careers in which, over the next 40 years, those without a basic grounding in chemistry will be increasingly lost. Some biology teachers may feel uncomfortable requiring students to learn more chemistry than they themselves understand or use, but this attitude is a disservice to the students. The future is different from the present, and students just undertaking scientific careers need a basic education different from that of 20 years ago, when the sciences were not all so integrated. Students need their chemistry background as soon as possible, so that their biology courses containing biochemistry and other chemistry-based material can be taught on a sophisticated level. In particular, the attempts in some biology departments to teach biochemistry without requiring students to have a knowledge of organic chemistry turns the course into a baffling exercise in acronyms, not chemical structures. The panel felt that whenever possible biology students should take the needed chemistry course sequence continuously starting in their freshman year. Currently, many chemistry departments teach a full year of general chemistry and then follow it with a full year of organic chemistry. However, there are alternatives. In some institutions, the first-year course is organic chemistry, followed by a general chemistry course in the second year. One of the most interesting plans is at Barnard College. There, the first semester is a general chemistry course, and the organic chemistry sequence starts in the second semester. The second semester of organic chemistry comes in the fall of the second year, and that spring the students can take a course in physical chemistry. The revised sequence has a number of advantages. Students who are taking only one year of chemistry can be exposed to both the concepts and
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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists content of general chemistry and some organic chemistry. Furthermore, it would be possible to teach the one-semester organic course as an introduction, covering all the major classes of compounds and reactions in an introductory way. Then the second semester of organic chemistry could be more intensive, introducing ideas of mechanism and of biological relevance. Since organic chemistry is really not a linear subject, there is some advantage in having the students know something about carbonyl chemistry, for instance, rather early rather than waiting until the second semester to teach it. This would give biology students a reasonable background for their second-year biology courses. The panel asked that chemistry departments consider a plan in which general chemistry is a one-semester course, followed by the first semester of organic chemistry in the spring of the first year. Then in the fall of the second year an additional semester of organic chemistry could be taught, with the opportunity in the spring for a course in analytical chemistry, in physical chemistry, or in some combination of the two. Proposal for beginning chemistry curriculum (presented in semesters, used by 75 percent of schools) Semester 1 Introductory Semester 2 Organic Chemistry—Concepts Semester 3 Organic Chemistry—Details, connections, biochemical examples, and including physical chemistry in solution and information on instruments for NMR, GC, etc. Semester 4 Physical and Analytical Chemistry (including some topics removed from introductory course) and Biochemistry The panel identified the following five issues that might hamper the changes it recommended: A drawback of making the introductory course only a one-semester course is a decreased opportunity to include interdisciplinary examples. In addition, poorly prepared students may be left further behind by a onesemester introductory course despite not needing the specific skills for organic chemistry. Many students do not take introductory chemistry until their second year and then take organic as juniors. (For example, at Carleton, two-thirds of the biology majors in organic chemistry are juniors.) Chemistry has some of the strictest prerequisite requirements. This
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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists pushes biochemistry late in the undergraduate career after students have already had many biology courses and they may miss the connections. Transfer students may be disadvantaged. At University of Wisconsin-Madison, 50 percent of chemistry majors are transfers from two-year schools, and they are the source of most of the demographic diversity in the department. This proposal would require the development of a new analytical/ physical chemistry course. The University of Michigan tried and failed to do something similar. One challenge is to convince analytical and physical chemists that life science students are a good target audience for their teaching. Connections Between Chemistry and Biology In the United States, most students enrolled in the first two years of chemistry courses have at least an interest in biology, and many hope to follow careers in biology or medicine. This is quite different from the situation in Europe and Asia, in which chemistry courses are taught exclusively to chemistry majors. U.S. classes in the first two years of chemistry contain biology majors, premedical students, engineering students, environmental science students, and non-science students simply meeting a science requirement, in addition to prospective chemists. The need to educate future chemists does not mean that chemistry teachers should pay no attention to the needs and interests of biology students. The panel felt it was important for chemistry teachers to take into account the interests of all their students, and not pretend that they are all chemistry majors. In particular, when possible, the teachers should include biological examples to make it clear that the fundamental science being taught has clear implications for current biology. If possible, they should also indicate what is still left to be discovered in biology for which chemistry can supply answers. Of course, teachers should also refer to environmental examples, such as the relevance of free radical chain reactions to the ozone hole. Real-life examples are of interest to all students, so even the engineering students will find biological and environmental chemistry a stimulating part of a course. For that matter, biology students can find the contrast between laboratory chemistry and manufacturing processes interesting if the examples are well chosen. It does not seem practical to break chemistry courses up into different sections, addressed to different student interests. Furthermore, interests change—a biology student might well go into envi-
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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists ronmental studies, for instance. Thus the critical recommendation is that chemistry teachers not simply teach “pure” chemistry, but instead stimulate student interest by showing the breadth of the current science and future science in which chemistry has an important role to play. Some students complain that much of what they are learning in chemistry courses does not seem to be directly relevant to their current interests. Such complaints often confuse the roles of education and of training. Training may well address the current needs of students—how to clone a protein, for instance. Education gives them the base on which to build understanding of future scientific advances. Such understanding is needed for them to function creatively in the science of the future, and it is also needed for their self-respect. Even if they could perform cloning by following a recipe, with no understanding of what is going on, this would reduce them to narrow technicians rather than competent scientists. Many courses on organic chemistry are currently taught as sets of disconnected facts. Students would benefit from a combinatorial approach emphasizing principles and concepts. Organic chemistry students often have difficulty translating what they have learned with simple molecules into an understanding of macromolecular behavior. Complex processes should be covered in class. Some professors have experimented with teaching the topics of a traditional yearlong organic class in a new format. All topics are covered quickly during the first semester. This gives the students a general understanding of the concepts. It helps them to see how they are interconnected when each topic is repeated in greater detail during the second semester. The first semester is principle-oriented, not watered down. This approach also allows more biochemical topics to be introduced during the second semester. This twice-through approach is used in Dan Kim’s book at MIT. Dale Poulter tried it with his classes at the University of Utah. He found the students to be very frustrated during the first four weeks of the first semester. However, by the end of that semester, the students were happy, and he was satisfied with what they had learned. Example Course In his organic chemistry course at Carleton College, Jerry Mohrig integrates material on carbohydrates (which he believes are undervalued by the chemistry community) by having a capstone to his yearlong course on “Why do we get the flu every year?” Information on glycobiology, molecular recognition, and cell-cell interactions is integrated throughout both se-
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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists mesters as a storyline. Originally, he had tried to use multiple isolated biological examples but the relevance wasn’t clear to his students. The flu example was chosen instead of details on how egg and sperm bind because more is known about the viral system. (Ron Breslow noted that it is crucial to communicate to students that there are still open questions like these to be investigated.) A noticeable change in students’ attitudes was seen when biology professors later taught the same concepts previously covered in chemistry class. It appeared that by discussing what the students had learned in chemistry class, the biology faculty demonstrated how chemistry is essential to fully understand biological systems. These connections help students to make desirable interdisciplinary connections. Their understanding of the material was tested by asking students one or two years after learning about the flu example to answer a question on immunological aspects of influenza. The flu case will be published shortly by Wylie and it is being written up as part of a collection of modules suitable for organic chemistry by T. Andrew Mobley at Grinnell. It will also be described in the Journal of Chemical Education. Laboratories Chemistry courses normally have laboratory work, either as part of the course or separately. These labs have two functions: to teach students the skills they will need if they are to go on to experimental science related to chemistry, and to show students that what they have learned in lectures has a real-world aspect. However, these undergraduate labs are too often exercises in following a recipe, exercises that do not sufficiently excite and inspire students. This is a wasted opportunity. To give a better sense of what science is, and how research is done, the panel felt that when possible the elementary labs be project based, with groups of students cooperating to solve a problem, for instance, by collecting data or running a reaction under different conditions to try to optimize it. The students should also prepare reports of their studies and results. The panel generally wanted to counter the “tyranny of the one-week approach” to lab. Many ideas were presented on how to provide students with project-centered experiences. A related issue was the difficulty in balancing teaching of process and teaching of skills in labs. Problem-based learning can also help in that regard; Bio2010 committee member Sam Ward has a lot of experience with this.
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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists He may have ideas on how we can create proposals that are scalable and portable so many students can benefit. Harvey Mudd College (HMC) has many unique laboratory experiences. Seniors do independent laboratory research or computer science/ engineering clinics in which they work on real-world problems suggested by industry. All introductory biology labs are project-oriented. First-year students are offered a choice of traditional labs in chemistry and physics or an Interdisciplinary (ID) Lab that combines chemistry and physics. HMC has broad scientific core requirements as well as a colloquium program within each department. The college is also instituting new majors that cross disciplinary boundaries such as a joint math-biology major. The ID Lab at HMC is a stand-alone course not affiliated with a lecture, although a large lab manual does provide background information. It creates excitement by presenting material in a more research-like setting. The students work in pairs for a three-week experiment before shifting partners for the next three weeks. The lab provides ownership by letting students decide which questions to ask. This can lead to increased interest on the part of the student when a related topic is presented in a later lecture course. It gives the opportunity to think like a scientist as well as across disciplines. The ID Lab was developed with an Award for the Integration of Research and Education (AIRE) from NSF. The goal of the ID Lab is to make the first year of college more exciting. HMC faculty spent a summer working with eight undergraduates to develop the course and get it ready for implementation. These labs do not cost much extra in materials (although laptop computers are useful); however, they do require extensive instructor time. In the ID Lab at HMC, there are three faculty for 36 students. Each student goes to one four-hour session per week. In the three-week experiment they spend week #1 on skills and equipment; at home they start designing the experiment to do during week #2. Week #3 provides time to finish up, analyze results, and present orally. A written report is also done. The grades are based on prelab write-ups, final reports, and lab behavior. The student evaluations indicated that they liked being able to think creatively and being immersed in the subject. Assessment was done by comparing answers to a question about paramecium and contractile vacuoles between students from the ID Lab and those in traditional chemistry and physics labs. An outside professor from Pomona College was brought in to score the assessment. The only areas of difference were in error analysis and development of creative proposals; the ID students per-
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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists formed better in both of these areas. Both groups understood the fundamentals. Purdue has an integrated laboratory for 120 pharmacy students. The TAs come from multiple departments and the experiments range from patient consultations to analyses of receptor binding. In some experiments the students contribute questions and influence the course of the lab. To come together and do this, the departments required a mandate from the dean. Many students now arrive in college with computer skills, and such skills can greatly enhance their educational experience in chemistry courses. The panel recommended that chemistry instructors think of ways to get students working independently or in groups on computers. Examples could include doing molecular modeling of the compounds and reactions being studied in lectures or labs, going into the chemical literature by computer to retrieve information and procedures, and perhaps even writing small programs to handle the information collected in project-based labs. Teaching Materials Not all chemistry teachers are aware of the relevant biological examples that could broaden the scope of their courses, and not all chemistry texts have such examples. The panel felt that the teaching of chemistry would be greatly facilitated by the production of materials that illustrate the interplay of chemistry and biology that could be used to supplement the textbooks. Some important topics are included in organic chemistry texts, usually at the back of the book. Teachers often do not get that far. For instance, the chemistry of heterocyclic compounds is often given short shrift at best in many elementary organic chemistry classes, and yet heterocycles are components of nucleic acids, vitamins, and proteins, and their chemistry is central to much of biochemistry. Almost all medicinal compounds contain heterocyclic components. As another example, phosphate esters are part of nucleic acids and coenzymes, but their chemistry is often neglected in elementary organic chemistry courses. The contrast in properties between carboxylic esters and phosphate esters has important basic chemistry lessons, but is usually neglected. The panel encouraged the teachers of elementary chemistry courses to think carefully about which topics they include and exclude, and not be tempted to teach only the most topical current chemistry research findings at the expense of covering basic and important material that they may personally find less exciting. Of course,
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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists every teacher wants to bring exciting topics into a course, and some material that illustrates the magic of chemistry itself is essential. However, chemistry claims to be the central, useful, and creative science, and its relevance to other fields will help justify this claim. Some non-chemistry students find chemistry particularly difficult; with some effort on the part of the chemistry faculty, they may conclude the difficulty is worth it. Modules can help mitigate the risks faculty take in changing their courses. They provide supporting material to the instructor. Books as companions to traditional texts are useful. One companion is a materials chemistry supplement to traditional inorganic courses with illustrations of how to incorporate examples involving solids. The companion was produced by Art Ellis and colleagues at the Institute for Chemical Education of the University of Wisconsin. The companion provides a matrix indicating which examples fit with which chapters of traditional textbooks. In making the matrix, the authors decided that they needed to agree at “low resolution” on what concepts should be covered (stoichiometry, structure and binding, for example) but that a “high resolution” consensus was unnecessary because faculty members could choose their own examples from among those provided in order to illustrate the common big themes. The National Institute for Science Education (NISE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was created by cooperative agreement with NSF. The goal of NISE is to enhance student experiences via teacher training. Evidence shows that collaborative learning leads to gains in performance, attitude, and persistence. NISE targets “reform ready” instructors to maximize gains. They gather stories of obstacles and results from colleagues and provide guidance on how to use interviews, portfolios, and scoring rubrics for assessment. In addition they focus on learning through technology across various disciplines and institutions. Some of the instructional material includes a DNA Optical Transform Kit, magnets, and ferrofluids. These materials are provided at-cost by the Institute for Chemical Education. The NSF ChemLinks project is a systemic change initiative that focuses on the role of chemistry as a filter for other scientific disciplines. It is run by Brock Spencer at Beloit College and is associated with a Berkeley consortium. It provides two to three week teaching modules and a book of these modules was published by Wylie. The only one related to biology is called “Would you like fries with that? What is all the fuss about fat in the diet?” A 1998 NSF report Curricular Developments in the Analytical Sciences,
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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists is available from its committee chair, Ted Kuwana at the University of Kansas. (http://www.chem.ukans.edu/tkuwana/). The committee was formed in response to a perceived failure of the curriculum to meet the needs of scientists, especially industrial employers looking for employees with quantitative skills, trained in measurement science, and with more real-world, problem analysis skills. Three crucial areas that students lack are measurement, problem solving, and hands-on techniques. One way to improve these areas is to use context-based material and problem-based learning (PBL). Through PBL, students are taught to: (1) define a problem, (2) deal with sampling, (3) separate out interfering compounds, (4) measure, (5) collect data, and (6) analyze results. All science students need to know about analysis, instruments, and quantitative concepts. For example, biology students need to know which columns to choose for which experiments. Biologists also need to learn about spectroscopy, especially NMR and mass spectroscopy, but not necessarily infrared spectroscopy. They need to acquire analytical and problem-solving skills and have exposure to primary experimental data. In the context of chemistry, the best way to teach these topics is through an analytical course. Panel member Art Ellis mentioned the book “Talking About Leaving.” Ellis has eliminated grading on the curve and, therefore, much of the competition in his introductory course. He uses exercises to make the students feel less isolated, including study groups and ConcepTests. In this approach, conceptual questions are posed in the lecture room along with a few possible answers. Students vote on the possible answers, try to persuade their neighbors in the lecture room that they are correct, and finally vote again. The goal is to get students to predict how things work; it requires inspiration, not more acid-base calculations. This form of peer instruction is often an effective pedagogical method, and it also provides the instructor with online feedback as to how well the class is following the lecture. It can also help to decrease differences between students of diverse backgrounds. Ellis recommends using good, pointed questions to focus the material. He focuses on having students spend time in discussion groups and he covers the key points in lecture, but requires them to read the textbook for the remainder of the content. He views this as empowering them to learn. Tracking at UW-Madison shows that enrollment for organic chemistry is almost as large as introductory chemistry; therefore attrition has declined with these new efforts in the first-year course.
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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists Implementation Marc Loudon summarized his impressions of the panel’s discussions. Real-world examples are necessary for chemistry courses (like Jerry Mohrig’s flu stories), analytical tools are crucial, and teaching methods must excite the students (like HMC’s ID Lab and Art Ellis’ materials). How to transfer some of the techniques to large schools is a real issue. In order to successfully implement change, crucial skills and themes must be identified so that tests measure learning of important material. Other obstacles will also be encountered. Many schools find it hard to optimally allocate resources, and there are big drawbacks to basing money on the number of student hours. In addition, the assigning of TAs is important. Do biology or chemistry graduate students act as TAs in biochemistry courses? The choice dramatically affects how the students see the material. A workshop could be organized to bring together faculty and administrators to discuss the importance of these structural issues. Project Kaleidoscope is one venue that attempts to address such problems. It operates by looking for “what works” and encouraging others to apply those approaches in their own institutions, departments, and courses. It has recently focused on two main issues in educational reform: the importance of institutional change and the architectural design of laboratories and classrooms. In addition, its network of Faculty for the 21st Century provides support for young professors who care about education by linking them with similar faculty at other institutions. The American Chemical Society (ACS) Committee on Professional Training (CPT) oversees undergraduate accreditation in chemistry at over 600 schools. Their 40-page guidelines are available at the CPT Web site (http://www.acs.org/education/cpt/guidelines.html). The guidelines describe a chemistry curriculum at the core level and provide topical supplements in areas such as biochemistry. Biochemistry was recently added as a requirement for all chemistry majors. There are three ways a school can satisfy that requirement for accreditation: a core required course, an upper-level course, or distribution of biochemical content throughout the core curriculum. The third option would go a long way toward helping to address the perceived irrelevance of chemistry to biologists. However, most schools will stick with a separate biochemistry course. One reason for this concern is the fear of classically trained chemistry faculty who themselves lack biological training and do not have easy access to good textbooks with integrated biological examples. The trend of the ACS’s CPT is to allow for increased flexibility in how
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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists departments meet requirements. They see the flexibility as a necessary response to today’s chemistry, which is more broad-based than in the past. ACS is focusing on providing more options for individual students and for institutions while maintaining the same level of rigor and expertise. Flexibility can be hampered by faculty who act as if they are slaves to textbooks. To provide the options discussed here will require new formats of textbooks. For example, Marc Loudon mentioned the new option of ordering certain chapters of a larger book directly from the publisher, who will assemble a packet specifically for a course. This allows professors to choose the modules they want. Ron Breslow pointed out that this is easier for general chemistry than for organic. Most sciences have a national organization that deals with many special concerns of the field. Biology is in an unusual position—the various divisions of biology have their own national organizations, and only the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) speaks for all. But FASEB does not perform many of the central functions that are common for national organizations in other sciences. For example, the American Chemical Society’s Committee on Professional Training is concerned with examining and improving the education and training received by undergraduate and graduate students in chemistry. FASEB has no such committee. Because biology has no committee on professional education and training, the Bio2010 Committee has been formed on a one-time basis to address biology education, including the amount and type of chemistry education that biology students need. The current ad hoc committee is not an adequate substitute for a continuing body with the responsibility to monitor and recommend the content of education programs for biology students. Thus, the panel saw a need for FASEB to become a more substantial national body, and, in particular, that it form a Committee on Education and Training to function on a continuing basis, as the American Chemical Society Committee on Professional Training does in chemistry. CHEMISTRY CONCEPTS AND SKILLS POSED AS QUESTIONS The Periodic Table Concepts What are the trends going horizontally? What are the trends going vertically?
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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists e.g., why is H2O different from H2S in acidity? in boiling point? in reactivity toward oxidizing agents? e.g., why are thioesters less stabilized by resonance than are oxygen esters? how does this affect their biochemical properties? e.g., why are biological molecules based on carbon, not silicon or germanium? e.g., why is iron used as an oxidant in enzymes, while zinc is not? e.g., what is electronegativity, and how does it vary going horizontally and vertically? Skills Students should be able to: write the electronic configurations of the elements in the first two horizontal rows, including the atomic orbitals involved reproduce the first two rows of the periodic table from memory, so they do not have to look it up constantly specify which are the metals, which are not Atoms Concepts What are the shapes of 1s, 2s, and 2p orbitals? Of 3d orbitals? What are the shapes and angles of hybrid orbitals? How are they constructed from simple atomic orbitals? Why do the electrons in an atom not simply fall into the nucleus? Why do atoms absorb light at only certain frequencies (or wave-lengths)? Properties of Molecules Concepts What is the basis of covalent bonding? What are sigma bonds? Pi bonds? What is a bond energy? What are the approximate bond energies of a C-H bond? A C-C single bond? a C=C double bond? Which molecules can exist as cis/trans (Z/E) isomers? Which molecules can exist as enantiomers? As diastereomers? Which molecules will have dipole moments, and why?
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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists Why does ethanol dissolve in water, while diethyl ether does not? What factors determine the boiling points of compounds? What factors determine the acidity or basicity of a molecule? What are the approximate pK’s of carboxylic acids such as acetic acid, and of amines such as triethylamine? At pH 7, what is the state of ionization of glycine, of lysine, of glutamic acid, in water? What is an ion pair? What is a hydrogen bond? What is the hydrophobic effect? What is the role of van der Waals forces in molecular association? What is pyridine? imidazole? pyrimidine? phenol? folic acid? thiamine? pyridoxal? NAD? NADP? What is the structure of ATP? of coenzyme A? of heme? What is the structure of liquid water? Skills Students should be able to: Predict the three-dimensional structure of a molecule from its two-dimensional representation. Specify the axial and equatorial conformations of substituents in cyclic compounds such as steroids and carbohydrates. Write the structures of the building blocks of common biomolecules, such as the amino acids, the nucleotides, and the simple fatty acids and carbohydrates. Classify the sidechains of the amino acids as polar and non-polar, and indicate what relevance this has to the structure of proteins in water. Write the two-dimensional structure of a molecule from its chemical name. Look at a picture of a molecular model of a protein and understand what it represents. Write resonance structures for various delocalized molecules. Properties of Macromolecules and Materials Concepts What are the covalent linkages in proteins, nucleic acids, and polysaccharides? What factors determine the three-dimensional conformational structures of these biopolymers?
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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists What happens when a protein is denatured? What are the structures of micelles? Of biological membranes? How can one measure the size of a protein? What is an ultracentrifuge? What makes a metal a good electrical conductor? What is a semiconductor? Reactions Concepts What are the principal reaction types in organic chemistry? What are biochemical examples of these reaction types? What are the reactive intermediates in some of these types, such as carbocations and carbanions, free radicals, enols and enolates? What are the detailed mechanisms by which such typical reactions occur? What is a transition state for a reaction, sometimes called the activated complex? What determines the value of the equilibrium constant in a chemical reaction? What is the role of enthalpy, entropy, and free energy? What is entropy? What is pH? What is a pK? What is a buffer? What determines the rate of a chemical reaction? How does it depend on the concentrations of the reactants? What is the meaning of kinetic order? What is the effect of temperature? What is a catalyst for a reaction? How do enzymes catalyze biochemical reactions? What is the Principle of Microscopic Reversibility? How is the acceleration of a reaction achieved by a catalyst related to the acceleration of the reverse reaction? How are the catalytic mechanisms of the forward and reverse reactions related? What is the Steady State Approximation? What is the Michaelis-Menten equation for enzyme-catalyzed reactions? What does it mean if a reaction rate is said to be diffusion limited? What is the relationship between the concentration of a substance and its activity? What is an activity coefficient? How is it possible for the rate of bromination of acetone to have no dependence on the concentration of bromine, provided that concentration is above a certain level?
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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists What is an oxidation potential? How is it related to the free energy change for electron transfer reactions? What is the meaning of the half-life in radioactive decay? Skills Students should be able to: calculate the buffer ratio needed to achieve a given pH from the pKa of the buffer components. write the kinetic expressions corresponding to various simple reaction mechanisms, including the correct time and concentration dimensions. analyze whether an enzyme inhibitor is competitive or non-competitive from the kinetic plot. explain what competitive and non-competitive inhibition indicates about the likely mechanism of inhibition. write a balanced equation for an oxidation reaction, for instance. Analytical and Spectroscopic Measurements Concepts what physical process is involved in the absorption of ultraviolet light? of infrared light? what process is involved in the diffraction of x-rays? what is electrophoresis? what is HPLC? gas chromatography? mass spectrometry? what is fluorescence? phosphorescence? what does ESR measure? what is the physical process involved in nuclear magnetic resonance? what determines the chemical shift of a proton in NMR? its coupling constant with another proton? which common nuclei can be detected by NMR? Skills Students should be able to: examine an NMR spectrum and indicate the chemical shifts and coupling constants for the various signals. predict the NMR spectrum that would be seen for the protons of ethanol, and for the carbons of ethanol.
Representative terms from entire chapter: