Early integration of the individual student in academic activities: a novel classroom concept for graduate education in molecular biophysics and structural biology

BMC Biophys. 2014 Aug 5;7:6. doi: 10.1186/2046-1682-7-6. eCollection 2014.

Abstract

Background: A key challenge in interdisciplinary research is choosing the best approach from a large number of techniques derived from different disciplines and their interfaces.

Results: To address this challenge in the area of Biophysics and Structural Biology, we have designed a graduate level course to teach students insightful use of experimental biophysical approaches in relationship to addressing biological questions related to biomolecular interactions and dynamics. A weekly seminar and data and literature club are used to compliment the training in class. The course contains wet-laboratory experimental demonstration and real-data analysis as well as lectures, grant proposal preparation and assessment, and student presentation components. Active student participation is mandatory in all aspects of the class. Students prepare materials for the class receiving individual and iterative feedback from course directors and local experts generating high quality classroom presentations.

Conclusions: The ultimate goal of the course is to teach students the skills needed to weigh different experimental approaches against each other in addressing a specific biological question by thinking and executing academic tasks like faculty.

Keywords: Interdisciplinary education; Molecular biophysics and structural biology; Student lectures; Teaching.