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Known Structure, Unknown Function: An Inquiry-based Undergraduate Biochemistry Lab Course

Cynthia Gray, Carol W. Price, Christopher T. Lee, Alison H. Dewald, Matthew A. Cline, Charles E. McAnany, Linda Columbus* & Cameron Mura*

Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Education (2015; in press)

Equally contributing authors; *Reprint available (columbus@virginia.edu; cmura@muralab.org).

Abstract: Undergraduate biochemistry lab courses often do not provide students with an authentic research experience, particularly when the express purpose of the lab is purely instructional.  However, an instructional lab course that is inquiry- and research-based could simultaneously impart scientific knowledge and foster a student’s research expertise and confidence.  We have developed a year-long undergraduate biochemistry lab curriculum wherein students determine, via experiment and computation, the function of a protein of known 3D structure.  The first half of the course is inquiry-based and modular in design; students learn general biochemical techniques while gaining preparation for research experiments in the second semester.  Having learned standard biochemical methods in the first semester, students independently pursue their own (original) research projects in the second semester.  This new curriculum has yielded an improvement in student performance and confidence as assessed by various metrics.  To disseminate teaching resources to students and instructors alike, a freely-accessible Biochemistry Laboratory Education (BioLEd) resource is available at http://biochemlab.org.