# Teaching physical aspects of the molecular biosciences

The aim of this free highly interactive workshop will be to share ideas and practice in teaching concepts that lie right towards the physics end of the molecular biosciences curriculum. By “molecular biosciences” we mean courses with a strong focus on biochemistry and broader molecular cell biology: courses where Stryer, Voet and Voet, or Alberts would often be core textbooks. By “physical aspects” we mean things like kinetics, binding, thermodynamics, interaction forces, structural biology, physical methods, and aspects of computing and modelling. But those definitions are very much open to interpretation .. hence the workshop.

By the end of the workshop we aim that

- we will all have better ideas of how this area is taught at different institutions
- we will all have learned about innovative ideas to enhance our own teaching
- we will have started to draw together the scope of a realistic curriculum in this area

Although the emphasis will be on teaching physical topics to molecular bioscientists, we also welcome those teaching molecular biosciences to physics, chemistry, maths or engineering undergraduates. We realistically acknowledge this distinction, but do not wish to perpetuate it unnecessarily

Issues to be addressed might be

- How do we maintain the interest of both students for whom physics was a complete anathema at school, alongside students who might well have pursued a physical sciences undergraduate career?
- How do we assess our students’ range of backgrounds in physics and maths (and chemistry) , and what can we assume ?
- Which is best – a “statistical thermodynamics” slant (entropy is a statement about the most abundant type of state dominating) versus a “classical thermodynamics slant” (entropy increases). The former is a lot more “molecular”, but the latter is much more engrained in the textbooks.
- Can we bring in “modern” and general concepts such as non linear least squares fitting, and dislodge things such as the Lineweaver Burke plot whose virtue stems from pre computer days?
- Can we use single molecule ideas to enliven the students’ intuition and imagination about concepts such as thermal activation and “kT”?
- Molecular bioscience courses are often fact rich: what should the kinetics and thermodynamics curriculum restrict itself to so it can stay concept rich?
- How far should we expect the undergraduate curriculum to go? When is a maths-light approach helpful, and when is it a barrier to proper understanding
- Rates and rate constants: why do people find them so hard to tell apart?
- Do phrases like “mass action” and “binding isotherm” need rooting out
- Where do computer methods fit in ? Can we use simple numerical integration (time-stepping) to take the mystique out of differential equations?
- How much detail of X ray crystallography or NMR can we hope (or need) to teach.

## Provisional Schedule

10.45 – 11.15 Coffee and posters as ice breaker.

11.15 – 12.15 Three 20 minute slots for presentations of examples of alternative teaching methods.

12.15 – 13.15 In small groups, brainstorm ways to teach a particular concept e.g. “Unpicking the Michaelis Menten equation: can we make limiting forms of the equation make sense to the mathematically weak?”, aiming to come up with a short presentation.

13.15-2 Buffet lunch while discussions continue.

14.00-14.30 Presentations from the four groups

15.30-16.00 Facilitated general discussion and brainstorming new curriculum ideas.

16.00 Adjourn to University Arms or departures.

## Registration

To register please click here.

## Contact

For further information please contact the organisers:

Jeremy Craven (c.j.craven@sheffield.ac.uk)

Ehmke Pohl (ehmke.pohl@durham.ac.uk)Guy Grant (guy.grant@study.beds.ac.uk)