Biochemistry in the Collaboratory

The chemistry department utilizes POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning), a research-based learning environment where students are actively engaged in mastering course content and in developing essential learning skills such as information processing, critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and communication.

Special proprietary guided-inquiry learning materials are employed with the assistance of Seattle College faculty, Jenny Loertscher & Vicky Minderhout.  Sunil Malapati, assistant professor of chemistry at Clarke University, is also part of the POGIL Biochemistry Core Collaborators.


Form Exposes Function- a personal experience from Sunil Malapati

From past experience, I know that my Biochemistry students struggle with visualizing 3-D protein structures and relate their structures to their function.  I used molecular visualization software such as Rasmol or Deepview, but their understanding was still limited.  I approached our Art Department Chair Louise Kames and together we devised Form Exposes Function, a project that utilized the skills of Color Theory to expose biochemistry students to powerful methods of communicating information, while providing them with a deeper understanding of protein structure and function.  Students were given time during and after class to work extensively with Deepview, a molecular visualization software.

The two figures presented show the difference between student projects on the same protein, HIV-1 protease bound to the protease inhibitor Sequinavir before and after the introduction of Tablet PCs.  While both students demonstrated a basic understanding of inhibitor action in occupying the ‘active site’, the student group from Fall 2008 incorporated more details showing the interaction of the inhibitor with active site.  In their presentations, they were better able to articulate the mechanism through which Sequinavir acts.

Personally, I feel that my students understanding of complex 3D structures is much better than it used to be.  They are also better able to articulate their understanding.


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