May 2011

Feting biochemistry and molecular biology

 

Tennessee Tech University hosts a celebration of biochemistry and molecular biology on the anniversary of Watson and Crick’s discovery of the structure of DNA. 


 

 
Attendees were invited to an interactive undergraduate poster session that was a part of a science café.

The importance of biochemistry and molecular biology as established fields of scientific inquiry and continuing research is obvious when we look around us each day. Our concepts of modern medicine, forensic science, the function of our cells and even the complexities of cooking all are related to biochemistry and molecular biology. The Tennessee Technological University’s Undergraduate Affiliate Network chapter recently commemorated the anniversary of the discovery of the structure of DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick with an inaugural Celebration of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology event.

The idea sprang from discussions about campus student groups taking part in activities for week-long national celebrations of science, such as the American Chemical Society’s National Chemistry Week. We felt that biochemistry also should have this type of event, because its relevance is evident in our everyday existence and there are so many important accomplishments within the field to share with the students on campus.

We could think of no better day than February 28 – the day that Watson and Crick ran into the Eagle Pub and announced that they had built a model of DNA. It was an unforgettable day for the progress of biochemistry and molecular biology.

We began our celebration with a look at training future researchers in the field. We held a scientific writing workshop conducted by undergraduate students involved in research on campus. “One of the most important things to learn as an undergrad student is how to write scientifically,” says Kathleen Broderick, vice-president of the UAN chapter and workshop coordinator. “The format is completely different from what we are taught in high school English class. This was a fun and interactive activity that gave the participants excellent references and resources, and the best part is that it was done for students, by students.”

After the writing workshop, attendees were invited to an interactive undergraduate poster session that was a part of a science café – a casual and interactive atmosphere for the sharing of ideas, food and roundtable discussions. The discussion topics included the current research done by undergraduates and career spotlights. Our chapter also hosted a special agent with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation who has been involved in many different areas of biochemistry research, forensics and field work. There also was a chance for collaboration with many other student groups on our campus, including the student members of the ACS, the newly formed Eagle Science Journal Publication Association (the group responsible for the publication of the TTU Journal of Sciences) and the TTU green committee. Discussion topics with these groups included bioinorganic chemistry, biochemical approaches to alternative energy and computational biochemistry.

“The chance to present my research in a casual setting was a new experience. I felt proud of my research and excited to tell viewers about it. The feeling from meeting people interested in my work and wanting to hear more or getting students interested in doing research was invigorating. This event also gave me another opportunity to practice before I head off to Anaheim, Calif., for the ACS meeting. I am more stoked than ever!” said Talon Hill, a senior ACS chemistry major conducting research in bioinorganic chemistry. 

 

 
In order to celebrate the history of biochemistry, all attendees were invited to a special showing of the 1987 BBC dramatization of Watson and Crick’s discovery, “The Race for the Double Helix.”

In order to celebrate the history of biochemistry, all attendees were invited to a special showing of the 1987 BBC dramatization of Watson and Crick’s discovery, “The Race for the Double Helix.” The film stars Jeff Goldblum as James Watson and is no longer being distributed. It is a very difficult film to come by, but one of the chemistry department faculty members had a VHS version. More than 200 students and professors gathered in the auditorium for this feature as we celebrated one of the greatest moments in the history of biochemistry and molecular biology.

Based on the turnout for the event and its success in accomplishing our goals of career development, presentation of research and the celebration of the past, we plan to continue this as an annual event. Although this year saw a large number of participants, it is our hope to grow the event into a statewide conference, to increase the amount of participation in the research poster session, and to include a graduate and professional school fair.

We encourage all UAN chapters to help make the next anniversary of Watson and Crick’s discovery a national hit. No matter how small or large the event, having a national day to commemorate biochemistry and molecular biology would be awesome.

Casey McCormickCasey J. McCormick (mccormick.cj2@gmail.com) is an undergraduate student at Tennessee Technological University and president of the TTU Undergraduate Affiliate Network.


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