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BIOSCI203

BIOCHEMISTRY

Course Breakdown

 

Mid-Semester Test: 25%
Laboratory Component: 25%
Exam: 50%

Course Information

 

Recommended textbook:
Biochemistry (6th ed) - Berg et al.
Official UoA Website: link.

Basic Information

          My personal overall take on this paper: it was definitely a much more interesting and enjoyable paper compared to BIOSCI 106. While there is very much still a large rote-learning component involved, you will learn more of the how and why biochemistry can affect an organism at both the molecular and organism level. 
          Tips on how to do well: I found drawing out the lecture material onto large pieces of paper as summary diagrams, flow charts and mind maps etc. very useful for digesting the material and making it a bit easier on the eyes as well as helping to break down what initially appeared to be confusing information. Group studying is also recommended providing you don’t get distracted as it is easy to wrongly convince yourself that you know the content when in actual fact you have completely misunderstood it. Doing past papers is highly recommended as questions are often repeated from year to year.

 

Laboratory Component

          The most challenging lab in 2014 was the third lab with Assoc. Prof Kerry Loomes. Although this supposedly should be changed in 2015 be warned that it tripped up a lot of students (i.e. almost everyone) because most were unable to properly perform their experiments and therefore could not interpret their results. You are strongly advised to read the laboratory manual closely before attending the lab in order to get a good understanding of how things will go which will increase the chances of you and your partner obtaining “reasonable” data. Apart from lab 3 every other lab was quite straightfoward and if you’ve done BIOSCI 201 the semester before this should be nothing out of the ordinary.

 

Lecture Content

Protein Structure

           This first module was delivered by Associate Professor Shaun Lott in 2015. Although he was a very entertaining lecturer, the topic itself was unfortunately not so exciting (Assoc. Prof Shaun himself apologised during the first lecture for this!) The following topics were covered in 7 lectures:

  • Peptide bonds

  • Secondary and tertiary structures

  • pH and pKa in catalysis

  • Protein folding

  • Protein structure determination

This module was a good introduction to BIOSCI203, refreshing and introducing basic concepts that will help you in some of the later modules. This section however did require some rote learning – the names, structure, symbols and properties of all of the amino acids, as well as learning the general trends of tables and graphs etcetera. 

 

Proteases and Human Diseases

Taught by Associate Professor Nigel Birch in 2015, the topic of Alzheimer’s was very interesting however overall, most people found that it was not taught very well. Over 7 lectures, the following topics were covered:

  • The importance of proteolysis in Alzheimer’s disease (5 lectures)

  • Proteolytic cascades in apoptosis (2 lectures)

The main issue with the style of teaching was that the course lacked the ‘big picture’ of what actually happens during the onset of Alzheimer’s i.e. from the very first lecture, the details were all very specific and it was confusing on how much of it was actually necessary to learn. In saying that, in order to do well in this section, Nigel wants a lot of fine detail (names of molecules, by-products etc.) although he lets you answer in bullet point format. If you can get your head around this module, it really helps a lot with other papers as Alzheimer’s comes up in both MEDSCI204 and more so in MEDSCI206 

 

Metabolism

          In 2015, Associate Professor Kerry Loomes taught this module. This section is taught very similarly to his section in BIOSCI106 (minus the videos of him driving about Auckland city pretending to be a glucose molecule). The following topics were covered within 7 lectures:

  • Glycolysis and gluconeogenesis

  • Glycogen and fat metabolism

  • Exercise and metabolism

  • Sugars

  • Metabolism and cancer

  • Type I diabetes

  • Type II diabetes

He utilises the document camera a lot for the diagrams and pathways he draws and he expects you to be able to reproduce them for the exam, accompanied by some sort of explanation of the processes; you can expect at least a couple of diagrams per lecture. Overall, his lectures are relatively straightforward, what makes it more difficult is the number of pathways you go through but even then, you will be fine once you get those under your belt. This is one of the more clear-cut modules of the paper.   

 

Proteases

          This module was delivered by Dr Mia Jullig and, for the majority of students, the bane of their BIOSCI203 existence. It was a relatively new topic (taught in 2013 but not in 2014) so there was not much to go off in terms of previous papers. The following topics were taught over 7 lectures:

  • Protease formation and function

  • Proteolytic degradation

  • Mitochondrial proteases

  • Protease inhibitors

  • Apoptosis

What made this section difficult was the uncertainty of the level of knowledge required. Each lecture was incredibly in depth although she stressed us to only try learn the ‘main concepts’. The key to doing well is to understand how each molecular process works as well as being able to give examples of proteases (enzymes) involved in each process. The topic can be confusing at the best of times, but in saying that, it was relatively interesting. She also puts a lot of effort into making her powerpoint slides (complete with dancing Beyonce silhouette animations).

 

Cholesterol

          This set of lectures was given by Associate Professor David Christie in 2015. Not the most exhilarating of topics but overall, the concepts are understandable enough. The following topics were taught over 7 lectures:

  • Cholesterol structure and function

  • Bile salts and lipoproteins

  • Cellular uptake of LDL

  • Atherosclerosis

  • Cholesterol regulation

  • Cholesterol treatments

Assoc. Prof David tends to put a lot of information on his slides. There are a lot of pathways and diagrams involved, although he highlights which ones are important and what you need to focus on for the exam. He tends to focus on individual processes in the pathways so the diagrams (from the slides and in the textbook) which give an overall view of all the synthesis and degradation processes are very useful for your understanding the cycle of cholesterol in its entirety and its regulatory pathways.

 

Signal Transduction

          Taught by Associate Professor Debbie Hay in 2015, this module was very similar to the one she taught in BIOSCI106. She prefers to draw diagrams on the document camera (bring different coloured pens to lectures) and explains everything in very clear detail. The following topics were covered over 6 lectures:

  • GPCRs and second messengers

  • RTKs and Ligand-gated ion channels

  • Signal transduction and disease

She explains concepts very clearly and she is explicit in what you need to know for the exam and what just information for one’s own interest is. She will expect you to be able to reproduce the diagrams she draws in class, along with an explanation of the process and to give examples. She provides you with very detailed lecture summaries which are good for revision.