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All posts by Bruce - 8. page

I've taught introductory biology for... a long time now--at U. of Arizona, Princeton, Stockton (NJ) and Sarah Lawrence College, as well as online (Wyzant). Currently I'm retired; all the teaching I do is for the love of it.

What’s important about… the TCA Cycle

The Kreb’s cycle/TCA cycle/Citric acid cycle is a cornerstone of most introductory biology discussions of energetics. Boy is it scary to look at, but what a wonderful opportunity to make students memorize names and structures! But seriously… short of asking students to know everything about everything, what are the core concepts that they ‘ought’ to understand?

To my mind, two words: energetic electrons

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New Lecture Components

I’ve made a first stab at adding some lecture component materials (stuff I’ve already researched and collated; note that many of these could be used an in-class exercises or at-home student explorations). These are meant to be collections of inter actives (often simulations or explorations I’ve created), Web and literature resources, and sometimes Powerpoint/Keynotes files and movies from my own lectures.

Yesterday, I made a first pass at Opsin; this joins existing Flu and Cytosine/Uracil/Thymine modules; I also added a bit to the Blue eyes vs. Lactose intolerance set (where we deduce number and timing of origin of human mutations from gene sequence comparison). All are accessible from the link above.

Problem-Solving Strategies I: Polya

We all want our students to ‘think critically’ and ‘become better problem solvers’. But what does that mean, and how do we scaffold and provide opportunities developing problem-solving strategies? Obviously, this question is deeper and wider than a single blog post, but I wanted to put my first card on the table. First and foremost, this must all begin with ‘legitimate’ problems. To me, this means ones where a student must reach beyond plug-and-play; there must be elements of identifying which information is useful, choosing approaches that attack weak points of the problem, finding their own path rather than following ones already mapped out. Two cases that I think exemplify ‘real’ problems are Petals around the rose and (surprise surprise) my own PatternMaster.

The rest of this introductory post is dedicated to a distillation of George Polya’s advice to young mathematicians

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Flu virus: pH, organelles, proteins, drugs

Contagious Disease InfectionIntegrating major course ideas into coherent themes is a big deal for me. I introduced the topic here. One that I really enjoy is  teaching biology with the flu virus (follow the link for resources associated with discussion below).  Briefly, influenza attaches to the surface of your cells through specific interactions, is internalized, and then all hell breaks loose when you pump protons into the resulting vesicle. You’re trying to digest it. Its waiting for a sign it’s inside.

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Opsin mutates; color vision happens!

Just a brief update to indicate that the opsin function and evolution module is up in its initial-release form here:

Opsin: How mutations add functionality

The heart of this module is interactive software that lets students ‘mutate’ the gene sequence for the human red-sensing opsin protein and discover how easily it becomes a green-sensing opsin… recapitulating the evolutionary ‘re-discovery’ of this ability in old-world primates.

Posted material doesn’t cover the critical step of gene duplication yet; provided references are primarily raw materials for investigating how mutation can lead to altered function. In this case, that means how a green-detecting opsin is simply a red-detecting opsin with some mistakes in it.