The Course

Syllabi Fall and Spring (Microsoft Word 116kB Aug4 09)

Fall Take Home Exam (Microsoft Word 45kB Aug4 09)

Spring Take Home Exam (Microsoft Word 43kB Aug4 09)

The two semester biochemistry sequence at Saint Vincent College looks at how biological molecules are made, how macromolecular structures self-assemble, chemical mechanisms of reactions that occur in living systems, molecular basis of the regulation of diverse processes in the cell, and the storage/expression of genetic information. Both courses are designed to provide students with a basic understanding of the molecular basis of living systems with regards to protein structure and function, metabolism, membrane-based processes, and nucleic acid chemistry, so that they can continue their learning in medical school, dental school, veterinary school, graduate studies or on their own. The civic/social context used to teach "through" to the underlying science are a range of public health issues: Alzheimer's Disease, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, influenza, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, mental health, and cancer.

The canonical science content that students learn in these courses is typical of undergraduate biochemistry courses for science majors - protein structure and function, enzyme catalysis, a number of metabolic pathways, membrane structure and function, transport, signal transduction, replication, transcription, and translation. Summative assessments used in this course require students to explain important biochemical concepts and apply them to explain a variety of situations and applications. Some of these applications are given as take-home questions that utilize data from the primary research literature.

An important objective of the course is to provide students with the opportunity to integrate learning from a number of courses - both in the science major curriculum and those taken for general education requirements - in a way that also invites students to make connections to both personal and institutional values. By institutional values I am specifically referring to the values of community, care, hospitality, and stewardship; all four of these values are central to the Benedictine tradition that is at the core of Saint Vincent's identity and mission. These opportunities for integrative learning are incorporated into the course in several ways. Readings and reflective writing focused on the public health issues that I use as context for various units provide opportunities for students to encounter other perspectives and dimensions of these issues. As a capstone activity in each course, small groups of students complete what I call a public health project where they present both biochemical and non-biochemical aspects of an issue they chose. The public health projects are presented using the KEEP Toolkit developed by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching; KEEP is a web-based tool that allows text, images, hyperlinks, and video clips to be integrated into a single presentation that resembles an "electronic poster."