P568: Connecting basic concepts to experimental data: In-class journal clubs
Recently published papers from the biochemistry literature are used as the core of the capstone project in a one semester biochemistry course. The project is a journal club, and incorporates small group work, both outside-of-class and in-class. The outside-of-class groups analyze an assigned paper, with an emphasis on understanding how particular experimental techniques were used to generate data, and whether the authors’ conclusions are clearly supported by the data. This “analysis group” produces three written components: A summary of the major research findings; two potential exam questions that relate to the assigned paper; and a short explanation of where the paper’s conclusions should be theoretically incorporated in a future edition of the course text book. Each student in the “analysis group” is placed in a different journal club group for the in-class portion of the project, which takes place during the last two class days of the semester. Each of the several small journal clubs are comprised of different combinations of four to six papers. The journal clubs run concurrently, and every student has about 15 minutes to present his/her paper summary to the small group. The students evaluate their peers in both their “analysis group” and journal club. This project gives students the opportunity to gain skills in reading and understanding scientific papers, applying basic concepts to experimental questions, analyzing data, collaboration, and scientific communication.