Integrating Introductory Instruction in Chemistry and Biology

The Harker Integrated Science and Engineering Laboratory was designed for interdisciplinary integration of research and education. In anticipation of the completion of this building for the fall 2013 semester, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s (HHMI) Undergraduate Science Education grant funded planning for establishing an integrated first-year Biology and Chemistry course based on PBL. Setting up this course involved many challenges including different departmental cultures, faculty independence, and the deciding what “integration” means in this context. Now in its third year, the integrated course uses PBL and continues to evolve towards removing the disciplinary boundaries students often encounter.

Hal White, Chemistry & Biochemistry, University of Delaware

David Usher, Biological Sciences, University of Delaware

Lectureless Biochemistry: 19 Years of Total PBL in Majors Introductory Biochemistry

A series of 8 to 10 classic research articles on hemoglobin and sickle cell anemia, presented in historical order, introduce sophomore biochemistry majors to the discipline.  Each article constitutes a rich multidisciplinary problem-based learning (PBL) “problem” from which students identify and pursue those topics they need to learn or review in order to understand the article (learning issues).  Most class periods in this PBL format are devoted to discussions of various learning issues within permanent groups of 3 or 4 students facilitated by a tutor who has previously taken the course.  Brief descriptions of the historical context of each article and follow-up lists of instructor-generated learning issues provide the intellectual continuity and assure that students address the major conceptual issues.  These issues include topics relating to ethics in the conduct of science, philosophy of science, and experimental design in addition to issues of biochemical content, biography, and history. The course incorporates many of the elements identified as important for transforming undergraduate science education in BIO 2010. Examples of classroom activities and long-term student course assessments will be presented. Supported in part by HHMI, NSF, Pew Charitable Trust, and FIPSE. Course web-site:

Harold B. White, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Delaware