Professors Snyder and Abrams collaborate with colleagues in Biology and Neuroscience to create novel, interdisciplinary courses: Integrated Science Experience 1 & 2

in Abrams, Binyomin, Department, Faculty, Grants, Snyder, John, Teaching, Uncategorized, Undergraduate
January 5th, 2017


Curcumin Compound



Interdisciplinary, Integrated Course Ideas Receive Provost Grants

Chemistry faculty, John Snyder and Binyomin Abrams, in conjunction with colleagues in the Departments of Biology (Kathryn Spilios and John “Chip” Celenza) and Neuroscience (Paul Lipton and Lucia Pastorino) have successfully proposed ideas to develop integrated, inquiry-based laboratory courses for first and second year biology, chemistry, and neuroscience students.   Jointly funded by the Office of the Provost, the Center Teaching & Learning, and the College of Arts and Sciences, these interdisciplinary course development grants aim to promote faculty and student collaboration across disciplines in support of innovative, research-oriented undergraduate laboratory education.   The new courses that are being developed, Integrated Science Experience 1 (ISE 1, for second semester freshmen) and ISE 2 (for first semester sophomores) will facilitate students making connections across biology, chemistry, and neuroscience early in their undergraduate careers. Such interdisciplinary insights will better prepare for advanced courses and undergraduate research. Developed in 2015 and 2016, ISE 1 and ISE 2 were piloted in the Spring and Fall 2016 terms, respectively.

Interdisciplinary Science Experience 1

The first-semester ISE1 course was piloted in the Spring 2016 semester. Forty students with majors ranging from biology to philosophy engaged in a semester-long study focused around characterizing the kinetics of tyrosinase-catalyzed production of L-Dopa and screening of small-molecule inhibitors. The labs integrated teaching on the basics of instrumentation, lab practices/skills, research practices in STEM, working with scientific literature, and writing in the sciences, while synthesizing information related to chemistry, biology, and neuroscience.

Interdisciplinary Science Experience 2

A pilot of this first semester, sophomore program began this fall semester (2016) supported by Boston University. In this program, eleven students enrolled in Organic Chemistry 1 (CH 203), and Cell Biology (BI 203 or 213) or Neuroscience I (NE 203) work on a specific project that combines labs in both Organic Chemistry and Cell Biology, with an emphasis on Neuroscience, modeling a drug discovery effort for Alzheimer’s disease. This project, which was organized as a graduate level research group would be, with weekly group meetings replacing pre-lab lectures, focused on the isolation of curcumin from turmeric, and the synthesis of specific analogues in the organic chemistry lab, with parallel biological experiments probing the activities of these compounds as relates to Alzheimer’s dementia. Curcumin has a well-validated biological activities to launch the biology lab. The analogues prepared in the organic lab were selected for their practicality of preparation at the sophomore level, as well as to probe specific structural features of curcumin that might be responsible for the activity. In addition, the procedures in both labs were designed as an educational vehicle that would greatly enhance the lectures in Organic Chemistry 1, Cell Biology, and Neuroscience. This pilot program culminated with students designing their own capstone projects in both the chemistry and biology labs.

Professor Snyder said “The results from our first year experience have been even better than expected. New analogues of curcumin have been prepared, and the biological effects of these analogues have never been reported before. We are now seeking funding from the AAU to expand this pilot project with a second, research oriented project centered around capsaicin, the ‘hot’ ingredient of habanero which has also been implicated as having beneficial neurological effects.”

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