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Build-a-Polypeptide: A Hands-On Worksheet to Enhance Student Learning in an Introductory Biology Course

    Authors: Kristi Hall1, Jackson Dunitz2, Patricia Shields2,*
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    Affiliations: 1: College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742; 2: Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Published 15 December 2014
    • Supplemental materials available at http://jmbe.asm.org
    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: 3108 Bioscience Research Building, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742. Phone: 301-314-2595. Fax: 301-314-9489. E-mail: pshields@umd.edu.
    • ©2014 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2014 vol. 15 no. 2 307-309. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v15i2.735
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    Abstract:

    Many introductory biology students have a weak (or nonexistent) chemistry background. Due to this apparent knowledge gap, many students struggle to understand the process of polypeptide formation via dehydration synthesis as well as the interactions between individual polypeptide chains. This inability to reason about how individual amino acids interact with one another prevents students from making the cognitive leap from primary to secondary structure. In turn, students do not fully understand how even higher levels of organizations (i.e., tertiary and quaternary interactions) form the final three-dimensional configurations of proteins. We designed Build-a-Polypeptide in an attempt to help fill the part of the knowledge gap. In this activity, students physically represent the process of polypeptide synthesis and R group interactions using a paper model. Essentially, this is a simple cut and paste project that allows students to build a beginner's (i.e., highly truncated and simplified) model of protein folding. Previous research has shown that physical modeling can aid student understanding of complex topics (1,2). With that in mind, we developed this interactive activity to improve student understanding of protein synthesis and structure formation. This activity requires no laboratory equipment and can be completed within one (50 minute) class. Our worksheets were designed for use in introductory college-level biology courses, but could easily be adapted for high school or AP biology classes.

Key Concept Ranking

Amino Acids
0.70648485
Protein Folding
0.55263156
Proteins
0.37254936
0.70648485

References & Citations

1. Gilbert JK, Boulter C 1993 Models and modeling in science education. Association of Science Education Hatfield, UK
2. Svoboda J, Passmore C 2013 The strategies of modeling in biology education Sci Educ 22 119 142 10.1007/s11191-011-9425-5 http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11191-011-9425-5
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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/jmbe.v15i2.735
2014-12-15
2017-11-23

Abstract:

Many introductory biology students have a weak (or nonexistent) chemistry background. Due to this apparent knowledge gap, many students struggle to understand the process of polypeptide formation via dehydration synthesis as well as the interactions between individual polypeptide chains. This inability to reason about how individual amino acids interact with one another prevents students from making the cognitive leap from primary to secondary structure. In turn, students do not fully understand how even higher levels of organizations (i.e., tertiary and quaternary interactions) form the final three-dimensional configurations of proteins. We designed Build-a-Polypeptide in an attempt to help fill the part of the knowledge gap. In this activity, students physically represent the process of polypeptide synthesis and R group interactions using a paper model. Essentially, this is a simple cut and paste project that allows students to build a beginner's (i.e., highly truncated and simplified) model of protein folding. Previous research has shown that physical modeling can aid student understanding of complex topics (1,2). With that in mind, we developed this interactive activity to improve student understanding of protein synthesis and structure formation. This activity requires no laboratory equipment and can be completed within one (50 minute) class. Our worksheets were designed for use in introductory college-level biology courses, but could easily be adapted for high school or AP biology classes.

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Figures

Image of FIGURE 1.

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FIGURE 1.

Our model of a dehydration reaction.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2014 vol. 15 no. 2 307-309. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v15i2.735
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Image of FIGURE 2.

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FIGURE 2.

Interactions between a generic and sample peptide.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2014 vol. 15 no. 2 307-309. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v15i2.735
Download as Powerpoint

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