Learning Strategies in Biochemistry

Revised 2008/05/22

Gale Rhodes
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Biochemists use the tools of chemistry and physics to explore the fundamental and pressing questions of biology.

So biochemistry is quite naturally an interdisciplinary subject, requiring knowledge and skill in biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and computers. One reason that introductory biochemistry is so challenging and satisfying at the same time is that the course contains so many different types of material and requires so many different skills. One of the major rewards of biochemistry is that many pieces in the puzzle of your previous studies fall into place when you explore this discipline.

Start your study of each chapter with the Learning Strategy.

Each Learning Strategy contains suggestions about how to review for, study, and master some of the main types of material found in a biochemistry course. In many areas, there are specific strategies that can make your study easier and more satisfying. Some samples: 1) by reviewing some specific concepts from biology, general chemistry, or organic chemistry before you proceed, 2) by memorizing some important structures, or 3) by mastering a key derivation, you can shed unexpectedly bright light into chapters that first appear dark as midnight. As a specific example, if you simply bite the bullet and memorize the structures of the twenty common alpha-amino acids, as well as the ionization states of their side chains, you will find it much easier to read and understand the chapters on protein structure.

Learning Strategies are divided into topics that correspond to the major subjects in typical biochemistry courses. I hope that these strategies will be helpful to all biochemistry students.

Advice (no charge):

Here's a learning strategy that will work in every course: Get interested in the subject.

Don't let yourself be drawn into the silly grade games that students and faculty often play. Don't ask, "What do I need to know for the exam?" or, "How long will this assignment take?" Ask questions aimed at improving your understanding of important concepts. Talk to your teacher and your fellow students about biochemistry, not about grading policies, exam formats, excuses, your weak background in -- well, you get the idea. Leave your personal life behind when you walk onto campus, and open yourself up to what the university has to offer. Study the subject as if understanding it were your job -- or better, as if it were your hobby. Immerse yourself in the subject -- in reading, working problems, developing skills, speaking biochemistry to others, using your text as a reference. If you do, then grades will take care of themselves. This is good advice for all your courses.

Learning Strategies

Now go Biochemistry Topics and click on any link to Learning Strategies. You will also find links to other learning tools in biochemistry.

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