Welcome to CourseSource, an open-access journal of peer-reviewed teaching resources for undergraduate biology and physics

We publish articles that are organized around courses in both biological and physics disciplines, and aligned with learning goals established by professional societies representing those disciplines. Please let us know what you think as you explore the articles and other information in the journal. We welcome your comments, questions, and/or suggestions. You can also follow us @CourseSource on Twitter to receive notifications about newly published articles and announcements! Learn more about CourseSource.

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Structure and function are correlated at all levels of biology. This topic is typically addressed early in an undergraduate class in general or molecular biology before students have gained much skill or knowledge in molecular biology. However, an understanding of the chemical bonds involved in forming and maintaining the structure of proteins is critical to understanding how enzymes function and how their activity can be regulated. Here, a laboratory activity is described that is suitable for undergraduate biology students. This activity examines the activity of carboxypeptidase A (CPA), an abundant pancreatic enzyme with a rich history in enzymology and structural biology. The abundance of CPA in pancreatic tissue allows for a series of common biochemical techniques to be easily performed under the constraints of an undergraduate teaching lab, including the separation of proteins by simple precipitation methods, the examination of resulting proteins by SDS-PAGE and Coomassie staining, and the analysis of enzyme function through the determination of constants such as Vmax and Km. These steps illustrate the importance of noncovalent bonds in protein structure and the use of common biochemical instruments in the lab, while providing students with an opportunity to hone analysis skills in their consideration of the resulting data. Finally, this lab may be modified in many ways to make it suitable for upper division classes, CURE approaches to the undergraduate lab, and even to the pre-college classroom.

Primary Image: Carboxypeptidase structure and function. The crystal structure of a human homolog (CPA2; PDB ID 1AYE; image created in PyMol) of carboxypeptidase A is shown. The prodomain is at the top left and the enzymatic domain is below, with the required zinc in the active site shown as a gray sphere. Cleavage of a synthetic substrate by carboxypeptidase A can be seen using a spectrophotometer as a decrease in absorbance.

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Protein Structure, protease, Enzyme, chemical bonds, catalysis, solubility

Immunology is relevant to our everyday lives, driving a need for more engaging and inclusive undergraduate immunology education. One way to engage a diverse group of learners is by teaching them how to read and interpret the scientific literature. This introduction can be challenging for immunology research, which often includes jargon and significant background information. The lesson described here meets this challenge by first teaching students the basics of reading a journal article. Students then read a seminal research article in the field and discuss the data and conclusions via think-pair-share in the classroom. This lesson teaches students the overall structure of a journal article, how to read a journal article, and the ability to read and interpret a research article’s findings. Additionally, students learn specifically about the organization and expression of the genes encoding B-cell receptors.

Primary Image: Image portrays the computer a student will use to read the literature while thinking about the B-cell receptor (shown here in secreted form as antibodies). Image was created using BioRender.

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recombination, antibody, V(D)J recombination, B-cell receptor, lymphocyte receptor

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Publish Your Educational Toxicology Exercises in CourseSource!

August 9, 2022

CourseSource has recently partnered with the Society of Toxicology (SOT), and we are recruiting submissions that utilize the Toxicology Learning Framework to add to the toxicology collection!

Interested in sharing your work? Check out this video recording of the CourseSource workshop held at the 2022 SOT Annual Meeting: Publishing Educational Toxicology Exercises in CourseSource: A Step-by-Step Workshop for Preparing Your Manuscript. This workshop equips educators to use CourseSource and inspires them to submit their inclusive, evidence-based educational resources. In the first part of the workshop, Erin Vinson, the former managing editor of CourseSource, reviews the design of the CourseSource website and its features, and the various types for submissions. In the second part, Lauren Aleksunes (“Repurposing Drugs as Countermeasures for Chemical Weapons: An Interactive Training for Undergraduate Students”), Joshua Gray (“Pick Your Poison: A Semester-Long Toxicology Project Integrating Toxicology Core Concepts and Scientific Communication”), and Mindy Reynolds (“A Case Study Approach to the One Environmental Health Hypothesis”) discuss their curricula and the preparation of CourseSource manuscripts. The last section provides time for participants to prepare their own concepts for submission.

We look forward to seeing your submissions!

Many thanks to Erin Vinson and welcome aboard to Sharleen Flowers!

July 28, 2022

Erin Vinson, who has served as the Managing Editor of CourseSource since 2018, is stepping away from her position this summer. However, she isn’t going far! Erin is joining Codon Learning as their Faculty Success Manager! We thank you for your incredible service and all your work keeping CourseSource running smoothly!

We are excited to introduce Sharleen Flowers as CourseSource’s new Managing Editor! Sharleen is currently a postdoctoral associate at the University of Colorado, Boulder in the Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology department. Sharleen received her B.S. in Microbiology from the University of Oklahoma and her Ph.D. in Biology Education from Purdue University where she investigated features of undergraduate biology students' knowledge of different biological processes. Sharleen has a passion for teaching microbiology, developing and implementing professional development workshops, and engaging in science outreach. Sharleen is very excited to be on board and serve the CourseSource community!

Please join us in thanking Erin and in welcoming Sharleen!