Ginevra Clark (University of Illinois – Chicago, USA)
We describe a computer-based laboratory experience to illuminate the fundamental interactions dictating protein folding in the context of an introductory organic and biochemistry course. Computer-aided visualization is essential for translating from 2-D pictures in textbooks to 3-D protein structures, yet similar exercises are uncommon for introductory courses. Protein structure also provides a relevant illustration of the importance of inter/intramolecular interactions. As part of a larger curriculum development project using the “MORE” framework, students make predictions about structures based on their understanding of molecular interactions. This assignment directs students to manipulate protein structures, calculate hydrogen bond angles and distances, evaluate hydrophobic patterning, and examine tertiary and quaternary structures, then reflect on their initial predictions and explain what they observed. UCSF Chimera, a user-friendly, cost-free modeling program is used. Student achievement is assessed via an anonymous survey and their ability to “fold” an amide backbone into specific secondary structures.