Chemistry 104 Life Sciences by Numbers Spring 2009–10

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James S. Evans
Steitz Science Hall 131
Extension 6571
Home: 734-6304 (not after 10:00 PM, please)
Office hours: You may either make a specific appointment, or just stop by the office any time that the door is open (that will be most of the time).
Class meetings: 11:10–12:20 M W F, Youngchild Hall 215
Text: Numbers in the Biomedical Sciences: Quantitative Reasoning and Critical Thinking Skills by Alexander Buchan (Senior Lecturer emeritus in Virology at the School of Medicine, University of Birmingham), Barry A. Levine (Reader in Biophysics at the School of Medicine and the School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham), and James S. Evans (Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, and Professor of Computer Science and Chemistry, Lawrence University).
(Title: The authors have discussed this manuscript with a representative of Cambridge University Press regarding publication. They may market the book as Quantitative Biology.)
(Errors: please report promptly so that corrected pages can be circulated to all class members)
Coverage: We will not have time to assimilate everything from this book. Student interests will help guide the selection or omission of topics for class exploration and self-study.
Quantitative-emphasis approval: This course has been approved by the Committee on Instruction to be offered in a format that fulfills the mathematical reasoning or quantitative analysis criteria within the general education requirements for a B.A. degree at Lawrence University.
Rationale for this course: Understanding the developments of modern science requires the ability to cope with information expressed in mathematical form and with inferences based on careful attention to logic. This course can offer a helpful bridge from secondary school background to a more mature approach at the university level for students interested in natural phenomena and human welfare.
Students in many countries, including the US, are keen to enter the exciting new fields in the life sciences that require a confident attitude toward logical and quantitative reasoning, yet they face roadblocks at university level if they have weak pre-college mathematics; indeed, some may give up on themselves prematurely.
The BIO2010 study, undertaken by the National Research Council of the National Academies and promulgated as BIO2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists, emphasized the need for enhanced mathematical competence for entering most fields of research in the biosciences. Joan Steitz (Yale University, molecular biophysics and biochemistry; LU honorary degree recipient) was a member of the committee convened to prepare that report, while Jerry Mohrig (Carleton College, chemistry) served on the chemistry panel and John Junck (Beloit College, biology) was a workshop participant. This major national study was supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Similar concerns across universities in the UK led the instructor and his colleagues at the University of Birmingham to write the forthcoming complementary text being used in draft form for this course.
Class meeting format: We have a small tradition of considering “news of the day” about events and concerns related to human health or the environment. Please bring one copy of such topical items for circulation in class, and be prepared to offer your own brief commentary or to challenge others to speak up.
Class sessions will focus on questions and numerical problems. Students will work individually, in pairs, or in small groups with the instructor roving about and offering guidance. Students will discuss and evaluate strategies with one another, sometimes present successful solutions on the board, and keep a thorough notebook log of worked-out problems in their own hand. Additional questions and problems of a similar sort will be assigned as homework to be handed in and evaluated not only for correctness of final result but also for logical approach and precise exposition.
Frequent challenges among peers are expected as well. When peers appear not to understand, they ought to articulate the origins of their difficulty since active listening and careful reading are both important.
Assessments: Frequent problem assignments, two in-class exams, the final examination, and an optional individual project will form the basis for evaluation.
     Assignments 45%
Hour exams 30%
Final exam 25%
Optional project     displace 5–15%
There is room for individual expression of emphasis among problems, exams, and personal efforts. Persons differ in styles of learning, and you may arrange an individual conference very early in the term to determine how you want these various components to be weighted.
The cumulative distribution of grades for this course in five offerings with this instructor has been as follows: A, 16%; B, 46%; C, 28%; D, 7%; F, 3% (nummerous individuals probably exercised the satisfactory-unsatisfactory option).
Assignments: Assignments are due at 1:00 PM on the stated day. Late work is never fun to evaluate. Each student will begin with a “contingency” account containing 10 “contingency points.” When an assignment is late, this account reduces at the rate of 2 points per calendar day (or fraction thereof). If an assignment can be completed nicely and handed in earlier than 5:00 PM preceding the stated due date, then additional contingency points can be accrued at a rate of 1 per calendar day. The contingency account uses signed integer arithmetic. At the end of the term, the balance may be used to resolve ultimate grading decisions, but there is no predetermined relationship of contingency points to the standard grading scale.
Honor code: Each piece of work that you submit in this course should bear the Lawrence University honor pledge, your signature, and the date of completion on the final page.
Please seek help from others whenever you can learn effectively in the process, but always acknowledge the source, nature, and extent of assistance or collaboration. The final product should be distinctively your own.
Assistance: CHEM 104 is an opportunity for progressive confidence-building. Students should seek out assistance well in advance of the fabled “point of desperation.” Please bring any ambiguities about expectations or any lack of understanding from class meetings to the instructor’s attention immediately.
Lawrence’s Center for Teaching and Learning has some resources of potential usefulness to students in courses involving quantitative skills. When you go to the Center to look over those resources, you might also consider offering yourself as a subject-matter tutor for students struggling with other courses. Tutoring can be a relevant and rewarding experience for building your own confidence.
Instructor’s absence(s): There may be a personal trip during the “reading period” break. If planes don’t fly back into Appleton on that Sunday, you will be expected to carry on with class activities anyway on Monday.
Tentative schedule (2009-10): The pace may seem brisk. Indeed, the schedule shown below may be too hurried. Procrastination can be fatal. Keep up! The book has nine main chapters and a final chapter of special explorations. We can certainly consider skipping some sections in order to go on to others of greater interest to persons enrolled this year.
Week Day Date Class Activity Assignment or Project
1 Mon  29 Mar  Chapter 1
Wed  31 Mar  Chapter 1
Fri  02 Apr  Chapter 1
Sat  03 Apr  Assignment 1 due at 1:00 PM
2 Mon  05 Apr  Chapter 2
Wed  07 Apr  Chapter 2
Fri  09 Apr  Chapter 2
Sat  10 Apr  Assignment 2 due at 1:00 PM
3 Mon  12 Apr Chapter 3
Wed  14 Apr Chapter 3
Fri  16 Apr  Chapter 3
Sat  17 Apr  Assignment 3 due at 1:00 PM
4 Mon  19 Apr  Chapter 4
Wed  21 Apr  Hour exam
Fri  23 Apr  Chapter 4
5 Mon  26 Apr  Chapter 4
Tue  27 Apr  Assignment 4 due at 1:00 PM
Wed  28 Apr  Chapter 5
Fri  30 Apr  Chapter 5
6 Mon  03 May  Chapter 5
Wed  06 May  Chapter 5
Fri  08 May  no class (reading period)
7 Mon  10 May  Chapter 6
Tue  11 May  Assignment 5 due at 1:00 PM
Wed  12 May  Chapter 6
Fri  14 May  Hour exam
8 Mon  17 May  Chapter 7
Tue  18 May  Assignment 6 due at 1:00 PM
Wed  19 May  Chapter 7
Fri  21 May  Chapter 7
9 Mon  24 May  Chapter 8
Tue  25 May  Assignment 7 due at 1:00 PM
Wed  26 May  Chapter 8
Fri  28 May  Chapter 8
10 Mon  31 May  no class (Memorial Day)
Tue  01 Jun  Assignment 8 due at 1:00 PM
Wed  02 Jun  Chapter 9
Fri  04 Jun  Chapter 9
Sat  05 Jun  Final deadline for all work is 1:00 PM Assignment 9 due at 1:00 PM
11 Mon  07 Jun  Final examination at 1:30 PM
Printed references: Texts and monographs are written from several different perspectives for different audiences. Here is a sampling of those primarily oriented to the undergraduate level.
Some of these printed references are available in the Lawrence University library, a few are available in the instructor’s office, and others are newly published. Note that certain items may be rather dated, yet may still be useful for background.
Scientific topics  Biology
Etc. Please make suggestions based on books that you know about or refer to.
Math and logic skills  Math itself 
Etc.  Please make suggestions based on books that you know about or refer to.
Electronic references: The effort to master a new subject requires the use of electronic as well as print resources.
Some of these electronic references may assist with comprehension of the material in the text. Others may be useful for background. Still others may provoke ideas for projects or deeper study.
Scientific topics  Nobel lectures  Nobel Prize lectures are available (in English), from the first awards in 1901 up to the present time. A few now seem very dated and some are hard to understand without a university science background, but many of them make for good reading by anyone.
Etc.  Please make suggestions based on sites that you know about or refer to.
Math and logic skills  Definitions  Math Words, and Some Other Words, of Interest by Pat Ballew
Math itself 
Etc.  Please make suggestions based on sites that you know about or refer to.