Monday, February 18, 2008

Biology 101: Biomolecule boredom

Lecture 6

I think my class reached new lows in boredom today. I need to figure out how to make carbohydrates, nucleic acids, proteins and lipids exciting (maybe it's not possible). I spent a lot of time talking about amino acids, monosaccharides, fatty acids and nucleotides and how they are formed into polymers that make up most biomolecules. I think the way to do it for non-biologists is to cut back on the actual chemical structures (which is what the textbook spends a fair amount of time on) and spend more time talking about what each group does in the human body. For example, what happens to sugar when you eat it? What happens to protein? What happens to lipid? You could also talk about things that are made out of each component. Your hair and nails are made out of proteins, your muscles are high in protein with some lipids and some carbohydrate stored as glycogen. My biggest problem here is that I haven't taken human biology since high school. It's definitely an area I will need to study.

So if you weren't a biologist what would you most want to know about carbohydrates, proteins, lipids and nucleic acids? How do you convey some fundamental information and still make it relevant to someone who doesn't really need to know the difference between a hydrophobic and a hydrophilic amino acid? Or do you just make them learn facts knowing that they will probably never use them after they take your final?


  1. i'm sorry to be "that guy", but i am sick just reading through your summary. i was such a horrendous science student (you should know, we did take honors chem from layosa at the same time and i dropped out at semester and BARELY passed dullard chem). it could be that if someone had really tried to find an interesting way of teaching me i'd have gotten more out of it, but i find myself siding with the "teach the facts for the final" camp. 'cuz i've not only never been in the situation to use my BIO 110 factoids, i've spent the last 10 years running from such occasions.

    sometimes i can't believe some of us are friends. it's the green and white blood that flows mutually through our veins that keeps us together when evils like biology and mathematics want to tear us apart.

  2. Sweet, biology-induced PTSD. This is useful because I'm sure I've got a mix of students. Some want to learn stuff and some just want to know what will be on the exam--and I understand both attitudes.

  3. I took biology 100 at the salt lake center, and while the teacher was very kind and thoughtful, it was a bit like high school biology 1A. Which was perfect for me because I took the class the last possible semester I could. I actually think I did pretty good...

    But here's my point, I certainly was a "just give me the info, I'll take the test and get out of this lousy class" kind of students, I had no ill will for my teacher, but I was in the class to graduate, nothing else.

    I think if you keep in mind those who just want to graduate, and salt and pepper your lectures with facts that are interesting for the learning types is a good way to go.

    That and film clips...lots of film clips.

  4. One of my fellow grad students told me that they had a "biology in film" class at his undergrad university. Maybe I should develop a "biology in rap" course.

  5. bio in rap... that's it. that's why you're a teacher, rob. for no other reason.