Known structure, unknown function: An inquiry-based undergraduate biochemistry laboratory course

Biochem Mol Biol Educ. 2015 Jul-Aug;43(4):245-62. doi: 10.1002/bmb.20873. Epub 2015 Jul 6.


Undergraduate biochemistry laboratory courses often do not provide students with an authentic research experience, particularly when the express purpose of the laboratory is purely instructional. However, an instructional laboratory course that is inquiry- and research-based could simultaneously impart scientific knowledge and foster a student's research expertise and confidence. We have developed a year-long undergraduate biochemistry laboratory curriculum wherein students determine, via experiment and computation, the function of a protein of known three-dimensional structure. The first half of the course is inquiry-based and modular in design; students learn general biochemical techniques while gaining preparation for research experiments in the second semester. Having learned standard biochemical methods in the first semester, students independently pursue their own (original) research projects in the second semester. This new curriculum has yielded an improvement in student performance and confidence as assessed by various metrics. To disseminate teaching resources to students and instructors alike, a freely accessible Biochemistry Laboratory Education resource is available at

Keywords: active learning; biochemistry laboratory; curriculum; functional genomics; inquiry-based learning; protein function; undergraduate research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biochemistry / education*
  • Curriculum
  • Humans
  • Laboratories
  • Learning
  • Research / education
  • Students
  • Teaching / methods*