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BIOSCI106

FOUNDATIONS OF BIOCHEMISTRY

Course Breakdown

 

Mid-Semester Test: 36%
Laboratories: 20%
Mastering: 4%
Exam: 40%

Course Information

 

Recommended Textbook:
Biochemistry  (6th ed) - Campbell & Farrel

UoA Course Website: link.

Basic Information

 

BIOSCI 106 is designed to expand upon some content from BIOSCI 101 as well as some new concepts in biochemistry. It has 4 lectures a week on every weekday except for Wednesday with 2 streams per day: morning and afternoon. Additionally, there is a 3 hour lab every fortnight.

Similar to the BIOSCI101 course guide, it didn’t really contain extensive notes that matched the lecture notes presented by the lecturers in 2014 – it was mainly packed with diagrams, requiring annotation during lectures. BIOSCI106 underwent some changes in 2015 in the order in which topics were taught as well as the introduction of some new lecturers. Many of the test questions mainly focused discriminating against students who understood key concepts as opposed to rote learning the numerous biochemical pathways as seen in previous years.

The 'Mastering' Assignments are the exact same idea as the ones in BIOSCI101/107 – make sure you complete them in time as they do contribute to 4% of your final "theory" grade. In 2015, the MST tested the Introduction to Proteins, Enzyme kinetics, and the Lipids lectures and the Final Exam only tested the following lecture topics: Carbohydrate metabolism, Signal transduction, Nutrition and Antibiotics and finally Plant Biochemistry. What was particularly interesting about this course was that many of the topics were interrelated and also connected well with concepts from BIOSCI 101 and BIOSCI 107. 

​The document camera was used quite a bit in 2015 which meant that taking notes down in lectures was extremely important (as opposed to using the lecture guide or reading off the slides). Also, the pace of many lecturers was quite fast, thus often necessitating the use of the lecture recordings (audio + video).

 

Laboratory Component

The labs in BIOSCI106 were similar to the BIOSCI101 labs in that you had to hand in a pre-lab sheet (found in the back of your course guide) as well as an in-lab assessment sheet that was handed in at the end of the lab but with less variation. Although the individual tasks were mainly quite basic (e.g. pipetting, using the spectrophotometer, unit conversions), the repetitive nature often led to some careless mistakes which compromised the whole experiment and resulted in wasted time starting over again. 

​Again, the computers were used and in the first lab, we used a software program called Foldit to play around with different molecular bonds and 3D protein structures (which wasn't particularly difficult but could begin to feel monotonous). This lab thus invoked mixed opinions varying from enjoying the simplicity of the lab or disliking the perceived mundane activities we were expected to partake in. Power-point prelabs and using Excel to produce graphs were also required so brushing up on those skills were essential. Finally, it is always a good idea to look through the lab related pages and try to obtain a rough idea of the experiment; how and why it worked before going into the lab session, as there were always questions in the lab worksheet that related to the experiments. In fact, sometimes the lab assignment called upon knowledge used for the pre-lab, and this sometimes tripped students up as they had already handed their pre-labs in at the start of the lab and couldn’t recall the knowledge needed. 

 

Lecture Content

Overview

There were 7 blocks (or modules) for BIOSCI 106 in 2015, with the first 3 modules covered in the MST and the final 4 covered in the final exam.
1.       Introduction to Proteins
2.       Enzymes
3.       Lipids – Roles & Metabolism
4.      Carbohydrate – Roles & Metabolism
5.      Signal Transduction
6.       Nutrition and Antibiotics
7.       Plant Biochemistry

 

Introduction to Proteins

The first 6 lectures were taught by Dr Chris Squire. He is a very approachable person who surprisingly performs experiments in the lecture theatre! His section consisted of protein biochemistry, molecular structure and function and required students to draw and label the protein structures that he presented in the lecture slides and document camera. (We would suggest practicing the drawings before the test). But those drawings are quite simple i.e. drawing a triple helix collagen molecule; as long as the main features of the diagram are shown, he will award you full marks.

​You are also required to be able to recognise differences between the different classifications of amino acids (basic from acidic, hydrophobic from hydrophilic, etc) and recognise a few specific amino acids based off their structure alone. Lecture content is closely associated to the Bonding topic from CHEM110 (hydrogen bonding, Van Der Waal forces etc) with the final lecture bridging into the next topic. We would recommend revising the lecture content before going into your first lab for this course as this will be very beneficial. His tutorial session was very helpful as he went through many different past questions in depth, and gave out hints for the test - be wary that he may decide to not record it!!

 

Enzymes

In 2015, this section was taught by Associate Professor Shaun Lott. This was his first year of teaching and so there were some instances of not finishing a lecture on time and thus led to a staggered lecture series. Dr. Lott teaches by explaining his lecture slides, which were usually made up of just graphs. Although the content was relatively light, this section was conceptually taxing for many as it called upon knowledge of how graphs could be manipulated to gain insight into scientific phenomena. Many found Youtube and Google useful in addition to his lectures. The corresponding lab for this is also quite good in clarifying and consolidating your understanding of this section. His topics spanned:

  • Enzyme function, structure and inhibition,

  • Control of enzyme action

  • Membrane structure and transport

  • Specific role of ATP

Certain symbols and jargon were also used quite a bit so it’s important to pay attention as to which symbol stands for what. Equations related to these graphs are also presented in the lectures which seemed very complex, however, in our year, he did emphasise that aside from the main few equations (Michaelis-Menten equation), other derived equations and the way in which they were derived need not be learnt.  

​The review lecture for this module covered any questions students had as well as going over any difficult concepts again. Once you get the concepts down, you should be able to succeed in this section as his questions in the In-course Test are quite straightforward. (Note that 2015 was his first year of teaching/writing tests so it is a small sample size).

 

Lipids - Roles & Metabolism

This section was taught by Associate Professor Nigel Birch, his first year of teaching this section. For many, this was the toughest section in all of BIOSCI106, to the point of some students foregoing this whole section in order to spend time on the other sections to compensate. The lecturer teaches well, explaining ideas eloquently, but the sheer amount of information can be overwhelming. As he uploads his slides before his lectures, I would suggest going through his slides beforehand, annotating your courseguide accordingly. This spares you the effort of copying things down furiously during lectures and thus allows you to properly hear and understand what he is teaching. In 2015, many students were so occupied with annotating during the lectures that they missed out on some conceptual understanding and had to subsequently re-listen to the whole lecture using the recordings. Although the content is very heavy due to the myriad of biochemical pathways taught, it is also equally conceptual in that Professor Birch expects you to know when specific pathways come into play.

​That being said, although the content may be quite exhausting, the lecture slides are very interesting as are the lectures themselves. Provided you are not discouraged by the sheer amount of detail, this section isn’t impossible to do well in and can very well be enjoyable. As Professor Birch asks questions within the scope of what he teaches, there is not much need to refer to the textbook. With regards to the past paper, note that lipids was taught in the second half of semester prior to 2015 and so such questions (both MCQs and SAQs) would be found in the final exam, not in the In-Course test paper as in 2015. 

 

Carbohydrate Metabolism

This section was taught by Associate Professor Kerry Loomes, the man who used the power of biochemistry to make himself become a champion bodybuilder. With 8 lectures for this module this module is jam-packed with content (like the lecturer himself). Familiar biochemical pathways make an appearance here (Glycolysis, TCA Cycle, electron transport chain, etc...) which would indicate the amount of rote learning required for this section. Contrary to BIOSCI101, the lecturer here expects students to know all the intermediates in glycolysis and the TCA Cycle, making memorizing skills all the more important. However, the content itself is quite interesting and the lectures and course guide make for excellent study material. Mnemonics and drawing out or writing out the biochemical pathways are quite useful for remembering the different substrates and enzymes.  He gives websites and links that will make learning all the names and processes easier, so remember to use them and we would suggest doing past papers to get a taste of his testing style. Keep in mind that carbohydrates were taught in the first half of semester prior to 2015 and so for practice, those questions (both MCQs and SAQs) would be found in the In-Course Test rather than in the Final Exam, as in 2015.

 

Signal Transduction

This section was taught by Associate Professor Debbie Hay in 2015 and comprised of 4 lectures and a review session. This topic was fantastic to start the second half of semester with, especially having just finished the Mid Semester Test! Her lecture notes were in-depth but were relatively straightforward with simple signaling pathways that were taught in BIOSCI107 by Dr. Mel Collings. Be sure to bring some extra paper to take down notes as Prof. Hay drew up very clear and simple diagrams (adapted from the course guide) which also formed the basis of many of the questions she tested us in the exam. Everything which we were required to know could be found in her course guide pages which made studying for this section much easier. 

​The key things to pay attention to in her section became be obvious upon lecture attendance but for reiteration, things like: receptor structure similarities, differences between GPCRs and RTKs, and summaries of processes such as the G protein cycle were all very important. This section was probably considered the easiest due to the clarity of the information presented and the very steady pace at which Prof. Hay delivered her lecture. The concepts were not overly hard to grasp either.

 

Nutrition and Antibiotics

This module was split into two sub-sets:
Nutrition (4 lectures) – which covered things such as micro and macronutrients, adipocytes, obesity and other diseases.
Antibiotics (2 lectures) – which covered bacteriocides, bacteriostatic antibiotics and the discovery of some antibiotics, most notably penicillin.

This block of lectures in this course was probably the most interesting block and was presented by Associate Professor Nigel Birch. Much like lipid metabolism, we found this section to be quite jam-packed with facts, content and diagrams which all felt quite important to remember for the exam. Additionally, Prof. Birch is quite clear about his expectations in the exams (through his subtle-but-not-so-subtle hints in his lecture camera document notes). He made his lectures quite fantastically enjoyable without trying to present too much information. The key to tackling his section was definitely to not get caught up on every small detail but to understand the bigger picture. As with lipid metabolism, I would suggest going through his slides beforehand and annotating the courseguide so as to be able to actually pay attention during his lectures.

​It was important to know the names and functions of different vitamins as well as antibiotic names as those came up quite often in both MCQs and SAQs. The review lecture for this section was quite helpful as Prof. Birch went over past SAQs.

 

Plant Biochemistry

The last four lectures were given by Dr Karine David in 2015. Dr David is a very enthusiastic, energetic lecturer which makes her lectures quite engaging. The lecture content is also quite interesting as it covers different aspects of plant biochemistry; from Vitamin C synthesis all the way to plant substances such as opiates and tobacco. The lecturer was quite clear in what she expected of students in the exam, all of which were limited to what she taught and so rendered the use of textbooks unnecessary. The topic was relatively light in biochemistry (although it pays to listen carefully to her as for which structures and compounds to remember), and was relatable to everyday foodstuff and society. She was also very fond of using the document camera as a means of presenting the majority of her notes and diagrams that were important for the exam. Similar to the Protein structure block, we highly recommend going to the review lecture as she tended to go over sample questions for the exam. This was a good end to the course and, especially, was some great food for thought