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A few words about classroom etiquette

@biochemprof

@biochemprof

 

I’ve noticed over the past few years as electronic devices become more prevalent in our society, that students are now bringing the devices to the classroom, particularly laptop computers and smart phones. Most times these devices are welcomed into the class as professors incorporate online materials into the traditional classroom lecture. The devices are viewed as great tools to assist the instructor as well as the student, through downloading online lecture notes, videos, problem sets and the like. The electronic devices are also filled with many apps that do not pertain to the current topic taught in the classroom, however, so in addition to their use in the learning environment the devices may also present distractions to the student, and student behavior while using electronic devices can be distracting to the instructor and to other students. As we start a new year at the University, it seems appropriate to mention expectations and etiquette for electronic devices and student behavior in the classroom.

1. Students who attend lecture should be prepared to focus on the material presented by the instructor. Many students don’t know that faculty spend countless hours outside the classroom discussing curriculum, teaching methods, and student performance. We take your education very seriously, and we expect that you will too.

2. Cell phones should be turned off during lectures. Unless your instructor has a specific use for smart phones in the classroom, I can think of no reason why a student should have a cell phone in the class. I’ve observed students texting, checking email, visiting social media sites, watching videos, and listening to music during lectures. If you are doing these things with your smart phone, then you are not focusing on the professor. It is also very distracting to the professor to observe that students are more interested in looking/listening/responding to whatever is on their phone than they are in the class discussion. In my own class, I’ve observed students receive phone calls during class, and rather than turn off the phone, the student answered the call while exiting the lecture hall. In case you are unaware, these behaviors are rude. They distract the entire class from focusing on the lecture. Turn off your phone before entering the classroom.

3. Attend class. In my experience at NC State University, students who regularly skip class do not do well in their courses.  There are approximately 35 hours of lecture time scheduled during a semester for a three credit lecture course. Two to three of those hours will be dedicated to examinations, so students can expect ~32-33 hours of lectures by an instructor. At our current tuition rate of ~$700 for a three credit course, the student pays approximately $22 for each hour of lecture ($700/32hours), not including extra fees added to tuition payments by the university. In addition, NC State University is a state institution, so the citizens of North Carolina subsidize college education through their tax dollars. One should note that the tuition is paid before the start of the semester, so one assumes that students will attend ALL classes since they are paid up front. If you think that you can skip many of your classes, learn the material on your own, AND have a successful career at university, then you are mistaken. If you are the type of student who can skip class, only take the exams, and make an A in the class, then you are very, very rare. But, guess what? You are being rude by not attending class. Some day you will need recommendation letters for your future endeavors, and then you will learn that the boorish behavior has consequences.

4. Be on time for class and plan to stay until the lecture ends. Whether the class is held in a large lecture hall or in a small conference room, students who come to class late, or who leave class early, are distracting to the instructor and to other students. If you are unaware, perpetual tardiness and exiting class during a lecture is rude. If you can’t be on time to class or if you have to leave class early, then you should discuss the situation with your professor before the class. Don’t be surprised if your professor locks the door a few minutes after class starts to prevent late arrivals.

5. Laptop computers. Some instructors require students to use laptops during class, while some instructors prohibit the use of all electronic devices. A few instructors use a middle ground where they tolerate laptop computers in the classroom. If you use a laptop computer in the classroom, then you should use it only for materials pertinent to the course. Students are tempted to engage in social media while in class. Although this behavior on a laptop computer is less disruptive than similar behavior on a smart phone, the student can not focus on the course material while simultaneously engaging in other topics online. In my opinion, there is little difference between students who regularly skip class and students who spend most of their lecture time participating in other online activities.

As noted above, faculty spend many hours developing curricula because we want students to be successful in their endeavors upon graduating. This is our job. We take your education very seriously, and we expect you to as well. If you don’t want to be here, then don’t be here. You were accepted to the university while other students were not, and one can assume that they want to be here but don’t have the chance. Faculty assume that you are here because you want to be here. If this is true, then attend lectures and be present and open to learning. Engage in discussions with faculty and fellow students, ask questions during class, attend office hours, and learn the material.

As I explain to my students, some of whom also work outside jobs while attending university, if I were to visit their place of employment and act rude to them or their fellow employees, then I would expect them to say something to me about my behavior. If you behave in class as I’ve described here, then don’t be surprised if your instructor says something to you about your behavior.

It is a people business, after all

@biochemprof

Clay Clark
@biochemprof
I'm on ScienceSeeker-Microscope

 

Drs. Tom Baldwin and Miriam Ziegler have been a team for over four decades. As former trainees in the Baldwin/Ziegler lab, Carole Stivers, Zak Campbell, and I felt that it was an appropriate time to reflect on over forty years of science research and education by the Baldwin/Ziegler group.

Tom and Miriam have been a team since they both became interested in bacterial luminescence while training with Woody Hastings at Harvard University, and throughout their careers they incorporated cutting-edge research technologies into their studies of bacterial luciferase. Many times Tom and Miriam recognized how the changing technologies could be used to drive their research program, and the field in general, into new areas of investigation, often times before their colleagues grasped the vision of how the new technologies could advance the field.

Their passion for research and education took them to the University of Illinois and Texas A&M University as faculty, then to the University of Arizona as department head of Biochemistry, then to UC Riverside as Dean of the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. Trainees were never left behind or forgotten, as Tom and Miriam continue to provide advice and mentoring even as some of the earlier students reach their time of retirement. They have spent countless hours over the years serving science societies and providing their expertise to help shape national debates on science policy and education.

Baldwin wordle

So, we felt that it was time to bring the group together and celebrate the long careers of Tom and Miriam by holding a symposium to highlight research of former students, Tom’s faculty hires, collaborators and colleagues as a way to emphasize the influence of their training and friendship. Former students and faculty from each institution where Tom and Miriam have worked represented several generations of trainee groups. We were each finally able to meet former students whose dissertations we’d read, to reconnect with students who were in the lab when we were in the lab but with whom we had lost touch over the years, and to hear the stories of the other generations of trainees, both older and younger.

It was striking to see where the former students found their own positions around the US – Massachusetts, Connecticut, North Carolina, Maryland, North Dakota, Illinois, Texas, California, Arizona, Virginia, and others – in research I universities, smaller academic institutions, large pharmaceutical companies, biotech start-ups, IT fields, computer programming, and patent law. The group is an excellent example of the variety of careers open to well-trained scientists.

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Launching 2014 in Paris: The international year of crystallography

Dr. Sue Fetics

Dr. Sue Fetics
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Guest Blogger Dr. Susan K. Fetics is the International Vice President, Iota Nu Chapter of Graduate Women in Science.

She is a post-doctoral fellow in the Laboratoire d’Enzymologie et Biochimie Structurales, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Gif-sur-Yvette, France.

 

 

The United Nations and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has declared 2014 the International Year of Crystallography. As a scientist, more specifically, a protein crystallographer, this is an exciting time. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of X-ray diffraction of crystals. And interestingly, 25 Nobel Prizes in the past 100 years have been awarded for research involving X-ray crystallography. The opening ceremony took place on January 20 & 21 at the UNESCO building in Paris, in the 7th Arrondissement under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. There were many inspiring talks: we heard welcoming remarks from Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO and Gautam R. Desiraju, the President of the International Union of Crystallography. Many exciting research presentations were also given, namely: Prof Brian Kobika from Stanford University USA, 2012 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry, who discussed his work on G-protein coupled receptors, which is the largest class of proteins used as pharmaceutical targets; Prof David Bish from Indiana University USA, presented the first  X-ray diffraction data results from another planet, Mars. He explained that the soil on Mars is similar to the soil found on the dunes of Mauna Loa, Hawaii, USA. As a scientist starting her career in crystallography, it was comforting to hear that powerful results take decades of hard work with a singular focus on one research project. As a woman in science, it was uplifting to hear that crystallography has historically been an area where women, such as Dorothy Hodgkin, Kathleen Lonsdale and Rosalind Franklin, have made a significant impact – this is rare for a scientific field. Juliette Pardon from the Cambridge Crystallography Data Center, England, discussed how her organization is using X-ray crystallography to explore the natural ores and minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Africa, in collaboration with professors and graduate students at the University of Kinshasa, DRC. These crystals are used in our everyday electronics. The use of these minerals has raised ethical and environmental concerns for the DRC.

From attending the opening ceremony, one can understand that crystallography is a field of science which reaches across many boundaries such as gender, politics, scientific disciplines, countries, continents, and now planets. Crystallography is used to make cement, it is found in lithium ion batteries, it is the reason windows on airplanes are circular and it aids in pharmaceutical drug design. Despite the fact that the technique is 100 years old, crystallography remains at the cutting edge of science.

Many events are occurring this year all over the world to celebrate crystallography. For example, on January 17 & 18 at the School of Medicine in Paris, the “Festival de la Cristallographie” allowed crystallographers to explain the concepts and applications of crystallography to children and adults of the general public. Throughout the year, many countries, such as France, Greece, Tunisia and USA, have organized national crystal growth competitions for high school students. Workshops, exhibitions and lectures for the public are taking place all over the globe. For more information on events near you, you can visit www.iycr2014.org

 

Dr. Susan Fetics explaining protein crystallography to the general public at “Festival de la Cristallographie” in Paris, 18 January, 2014

Dr. Susan Fetics explaining protein crystallography to the general public at “Festival de la Cristallographie” in Paris, 18 January, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PhD student Elise Azar (right) and Prof. Marianne Imperor (2nd right) of University Paris-Sud, Orsay, France, demonstrating crystallography concepts to the general public at “Festival de la Cristallographie” in Paris

PhD student Elise Azar (right) and Prof. Marianne Imperor (2nd right) of University Paris-Sud, Orsay, France, demonstrating crystallography concepts to the general public at “Festival de la Cristallographie” in Paris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcoming remarks at the opening ceremony of the International Year of Crystallography, UNESCO building, Paris, 20 January, 2014

Welcoming remarks at the opening ceremony of the International Year of Crystallography, UNESCO building, Paris, 20 January, 2014

 

 

Central Dogma: The Movie

Cindy Hemenway

Cindy Hemenway

It all started in 2004 when I was trying to explain the trombone model for DNA replication to students in BCH453/553 (Biochemistry of Gene Expression). The conversation went like this…

Student X:  Dr. Hemenway, it is really hard to visualize how that looping process works.

Dr. Hemenway: Yes, it would be nice if we could build a working model to understand it better.

Student Y: Can we do that for extra credit?

Dr. Hemenway: Great idea!

The rest is history.  After years of students asking if I had examples for them to see, I finally gave in and filmed them in action.  Although I was hesitant to do this because it might hinder the creative process, the reality was that I was finding it hard to get enough notes taken down on my grading sheet during their presentations.  And, there were so many memorable projects!

So, please enjoy the links below of the spring, 2012 BCH453/553 students modeling prokaryotic DNA replication forks, eukaryotic transcription and prokaryotic translation.

 

New Course Offered: ‘Physical Chemistry for Life Scientists’

Chuck Hardin

Chuck Hardin

Have you seen the bumper sticker “Honk if you passed P-Chem”? I recently finished teaching the first semester of a new course offering designed to make P-Chem “come alive” for our students.

It seems obvious to me that every dry, hyper-theoretical lesson one encounters in the standard P-Chem course deserves to be refocused to highlight how it bears on biochemistry. Not only does it reveal how the biochemistry works, it also provides a much more interesting and example-driven way to actually hook into the concepts. For example, we learned about diffusion theory by covering the limitations placed on the use of pheromones by the size of an organism and the rates of diffusion of both the pheromone and the organism. In another, we used the Boltzmann distribution to understand how voltage-gated ion-channels work. In a third, we looked at the use of lattice models and the canonical ensemble to understand how the search process that leads to protein folding works.

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Hardin and Knopp Publish New Textbook: ‘Biochemistry – Essential Concepts’

Chuck Hardin

Chuck Hardin

Editor’s Note: Drs. Chuck Hardin and Jim Knopp recently published a new textbook/workbook with Oxford University Press (2012, ISBN 97 80199 765621, website: OUP.com). Chuck described the process of publishing a book to Biochem Blogs.

So we wanted to publish a book? We had no idea what we were getting into. It turned out that developing, contracting and completing a textbook required way more than just writing the words. When viewed in the rearview mirror, it was more like pursuing and completing a research project.

Oxford really puts their authors through the ringer. For example, the book is full of illustrations. In fact, completing the composition process involved extracting 843 figures from the manuscript, documenting them, then sending them to the composition editor, who inserted all 843 figures into the officially composed print version. Whew!

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A Happy Glucose Holiday Season

Clay Clark

Clay Clark – @biochemprof I'm on ScienceSeeker-Microscope

 

If you don’t believe in pathways, you might want to listen. Each year in his biochemistry class, Dr. Jim Knopp sings “the glucose song.” This year, he had special visitors from Ladies in Red, an all-female a cappella group associated with the Music Department at NCSU.

To kick off the holiday season, please enjoy The Glucose Song, as sung by Ladies in Red.

To see the lyrics:

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Confessions of a first time instructor

 

Dr. Greg Buhrman

Dr. Greg Buhrman

This is the second blog piece I’ve written, although it may be the first one you’ll read. Dr. Clay Clark asked me to blog about my experiences teaching BIO 414 (Cell Biology) for the first time. I wrote one piece half-way through the semester about one particularly interesting teaching experience. Then Clay asked me for the backstory but I never felt introspective enough to get into it. Now it’s the day before graduation and I’m feeling introspective, so here goes…

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Teaching the business of science

 

Clay Clark

Clay Clark - @biochemprof

Earlier this year I was asked to serve on the executive committee for the NCSU Molecular Biotechnology Training Program. This program is directed by Dr. Bob Kelly and is designed to augment graduate training by exposing students to biotechnology through laboratory-based courses and seminars.

Students also are encouraged to participate in the Professoriate Training Program (PTP), which gives them the opportunity to work with a professor one-on-one to enhance classroom teaching skills.

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