Monday, September 22, 2008

Tales of Biochemistry

Some of the comments in my last post got on the subject of Biochemistry courses. The comments reminded me of a couple stories from when I took Biochemistry.

I have had the "pleasure" of taking an undergraduate Biochemistry course not once, not twice, but three times. The latter two were cross listed as graduate courses, so don't go thinking I'm a moron. That should have been obvious long before this post.

I have two stories about my experiences in Biochemistry.

The second time I took it, it was team taught by two professors at a large state university. He was a good teacher, and she was not. One day she was scheduled to teach, but he showed up. The class of about 100 undergrads burst into applause and cheering when they realized he was going to teach and not her. A few class periods when she showed up, the groans and moans were hardly subtle. As a grad student, I didn't think she was that bad. She wasn't good, but not deserving of that treatment. Yet, it was humorous to observe that.

The second story comes from when I took the third time. By this time, I was just going through the motions. I knew most of the stuff and was bored. Sadly, the teacher this time was less interested in accurate chemistry. She would do a lot of things that would make chemists cringe. One day, she decided to deprotonate something with a chloride ion. I don't remember what she was deprotonating, but it doesn't matter. Chloride will never deprotonate anything, especially in an aqueous environment since water is a base about 1,000,000 times stronger than chloride. And that's if you ignore everything else that is even more likely to act as a base. OK, she may have just been trying to simplify things, but when we asked her about it, she would not back down. She tried to convince us that chloride was the base. We decided to not push the issue. The effort was just not worth it.


davejac said...

We've got a similar lecturer here... He thinks he's god's gift to everything, but he's nowhere near as clever as he thinks he is. He well thought of in the chemistry department, which was only reinforced with his use of the term "Manganeseium"

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

She didn't even try? You know, like, with hand-waving? Like, "Well, it's determined by the environment on the inside of the enzyme, and that's how it happens."

You should have beat her with Henderson-Hasselbach equations until she gave in.

Lisa-tastrophies said...

Chemgeek, I have to tell you. Only you could make me actually WANT to go back and pay attention in my chem classes. Where were you when they were trying to teach my that number by the Avacado dude? :-)

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

I suddenly crave a mole of guacomole

milkshake said...

This reminds me of my ex-mother in law - she was a high school chemistry teacher.

She was a prime exhibit that a lifetime spent in teaching introductory stuff to disinterested kids - repeating the same didactic crap without apreciation what the research is about, but with a great deal of self-confidence for decades - can turn anyone into a pompous bore and scold.