Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Bio 103, Week 9

Paul Grobstein's picture

Welcome to the on-line forum for Biology 103.  This is a place for thoughts in progress, a place to leave thoughts and questions that others may find useful and find ones that you might find useful, a place for conversation.  Join in, and let's see what we can make of life together.  If you're registered for the course, be sure to sign in before posting.  Others are welcome to join in as well but posting of comments will be delayed to check for spam. 
You're free to write about whatever has struck you.  If you need something to get you started though, we've now wrapped up (for now) our discussion of molecules and macromolecules.  Have we been wasting our time?  Are observations at this level of scale irrelevant for understanding life or are they significant?  What have we been able to account for?  What can't be accounted for at these levels of scale, and so perhaps need observations at larger scales to make sense of? 

drichard's picture

cell size and scale

was surfing around, came across this great module demonstrating the size and scale of a cell.

paoli.roman's picture

Small Group Discussion: Suggestions for Course

 Paoli, Karina, and Yashaswini

1) Do not drop the atoms, molecules, macromolecules section of the course. It is very helpful and necessary for understanding the other material/topics involved in the course.

2) Making these topics less "scientific", using less science terminology and use instead simple/ clear terms (everyday words that could explain them) but keeping the ideology or function of the same term.

3) Bring more lab activities such as looking/ observing under a microscope.

4) add fun activities during class such as biology pictionary or biology bingo!

lcorhan's picture

Claire, Jen, Michelle, Dchin,

Claire, Jen, Michelle, Dchin, Laura

1. the subject of macromolecules should be integrated into previous captivating subjects.

2. the concept of macro molecules doesn't need to be covered in this class due to its objective.

Terrible2s's picture

Terrible2s, Ktan,Vdonely, Lili

Today in class we were talking about the validity of our conversation about macro/micromolecules and what suggestions we had to make it better. Our group had a few suggestions/comments:

-We feel that it's boring, but somehow very important as well
-we suggest that we read about the basics on our own then discuss rather than learning about them fully in class
-we also recommended that we learn about it in class as a crash course (perhaps outlining what we've read) and not delve too deep into the material
-we felt that the class seems more to be about actual application of things in the world and observations/self exploration
-We suggest this unit be perhaps connected to real life thing
-We therefore said that because we take little interest in this we do not find it necessary to be "less wrong" about it
-Lastly, we found it to be more of a chemistry topic than one that should be thoroughly explored in Biology 103

achiles's picture


 We think that, because these subjects are largely covered in the traditional high school curriculum, it would suffice to provide a one-class crash course and reorientation, rather than an in-depth look. We appreciate the idea of looking at the nuts and bolts through the lens of skeptical scientists who view science as a process. We think that the goal of the section should be to learn about atoms, molecules, and macromolecules through discussion and connection, rather than solely through lecture. 

achiles, jmstuart, mfmiranda, mcasias

achiles's picture

 I think that sometimes a

 I think that sometimes a crash course in the basics of biology is necessary. I'm glad for the review and to see the nuts and bolts in the context of a bigger picture. 

ktan's picture

Mutation, evolution and the like

I find mutation facinating. When I passively think of the word "mutation," my mind somehow always wanders to bacteria that split into two as a form of reproduction, or more usually, X-men. Even though somewhere in the back of my mind I know that humans themselves mutate, I always considered the word an unnatural, "this-doesn't-happen-to-humans" kind of term, but the last class where we talked about "kinks" in DNA and RNA replication made me realize that humans are constantly mutating--evolving--even as I type this. It's kind of weird. 

Kalyn's picture

How Far Should We Go?

I think the real question for this class is how indepth should we be studying atoms and macromolecules? Should we be provided with a general concept that lets us understand their complexity in the grander scales of life? Or is it necessary to learn every minute detail of their function? I think what's happening is for some people the details are necessary and for others its not.

Terrible2s's picture

Macro Molecs

So, Professor Grobstein asked us if we thought that macromolecules were important to study and whether or not we thought this whole unit has been a waste of time. I'm just going to be honest, I know everyone is saying how important it really is to learn about them is, and I generally agree with that. However, I'm just gonna say it, they're boring. I'm bored. But I do think it is very important to learn about them. It's all the little parts that make up the whole.

Plus, as Prof Grob was pointing out, that's what makes the real difference between us and rocks. An important difference, I think.

Lili's picture


 Looking at molecules is definitely important, and I'm glad that we did it - not because I like them, but because my anatomy class last year gave me a romanticized view of science. Instead of learning all the chemistry behind the human body, we got to learn about the organs. It made me want to pursue a career in medicine or science, and I think that learning about molecules was kind of a reality check. 

sophie b.'s picture


In class on friday I was particualrly interested in our brief discussion of cholesterol. I think that the way cholesterol is viewed in our society sort of highlights a) the way that science can be severely twisted, and why we should question the use of "truths" and b) how science is a highly effective form of hegemony. Cholesterol is a necessary part of our existence that must be monitored, yet because it has been identified by science as a leading cause of heart attacks we view it as an enemy, something that invades and attacks us. Maybe its important for us to study these smaller scales, so we can understand our own inner workings better, and not merely depend on the messages that have been sent to us via cheerio commercials.

cejensen's picture

Molecules and Macromolecules

Have we been wasting our time? No. As has been said in this forum time and time again, it is important to understand things at large and small scales in order to truly understand them. However, I must say that I think it is harder for some, including myself, to identify the relevance of what we have been studying recently. I know that for me, it is much easier to view things on a larger scale, because I can at least place myself in that scenario. It is a bit harder when looking at things at such a small scale, because we are the things we're looking at, not within the things we're looking at. I understand that what we have been studying is important, but it's harder for me to see its direct relevance.

paoli.roman's picture

Week 9

Continuing with the lessons on atoms, molecules, and macromolecules;  the main concept that must be understood is that when one puts simple "things" together (atoms, molecules...) then one will get something completely new with a different structure, function, and role. To be able to get a more elaborate perspective of these new "things" it is important to be organized with our experiments/analysis because it will help us see patterns and thus comprehend these new "things". Structure is another very important rule taught in class; this is so because of the specific function brought about due to the structure of the atoms, molecules and/or macromolecules. I like to think of these las couple of lessons as a big puzzle piece. The more we connect and construct each piece together (atoms, molecules, macromolecules, proteins, carbohydrates, cellulose, etc...) the closer we get to see, analyze, and understand the bigger/final masterpiece!

dchin's picture

Week 9

Observations at the scale of molecules and macromolecules are not only significant, but necessary. We can best understand how something works by breaking it down and learning about its individual constituent parts. However, this is not to say that we should ignore the big picture. Instead, scientists should try to conduct their research with both a large and small scale in mind, as this will ideally lead to an overall fuller understanding. We have covered two very important things so far:  the interaction of things on a small scale lead to an infinite number of new things, and while we may have classified molecules and macromolecules, we still have not explained why these improbable assemblies occur the way that they do. Also, do we know for sure that the atom is the smallest unit of matter? Is it possible that there is something else that we just haven't discovered yet because our technology isn't advanced enough?

Karina G's picture

Week 9

 I think it is important that we take a look at atoms and macromolecules because it does help understand why organism are the way they are.  Enzymes play a huge part in life. We cannot drink or eat some sources of energy because we don't have the appropriate enzyme. Enzymes restrict living organisms' intake and creation. 

However, it is not easy to understand how the bonds and associations between them happen. For me it is difficult to study atoms and molecules without fully knowing all there is to know. 


dchin's picture

The interactions of enzymes

The interactions of enzymes and bonds leave me with a sense of awe. It is amazing that there are so many different processes going on that enable you to perform your most basic of functions. Given how improbable our assemblies are, it is also a wonder that these processes do not fail more often.

drichard's picture

on the topic of amazement

The small-scale interactions that facilitate our lives amaze me as well, specifically the way we experience the interactions. I just completed my web paper on taste - it's awe-inspiring the amount of chemical reactions that transpire when you bite into a piece of bread! And yet, all that we experience is a particular taste, maybe tied to a particular memory. In this way, the chemical, physical reality of bread differs greatly from the experience of "bread." The brain creates a story from the myriad chemical interactions that take place, and this story constitutes our reality.

lcorhan's picture

confusion and interest

i think it's really interesting and helpful to look at things on all scales, especially small scales. everything we see is a composure of something else which is a composure of something else which is then too a composure of something else, and so on. it's kind of like nothing is anything and everything is anything.