Dr. Rebecca Connor, Chemistry

Using the Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for teaching protein visualization technology and science communication in Biochemistry

I came to Valley and Ridge looking for ideas to help my students see beyond just the medical aspects of biochemistry. Many of my students are working towards health professions, but I wanted them to think more broadly about biochemical impacts on society and the environment.  Valley and Ridge introduced us to a number of exciting active learning activities in the context of global sustainability development and place-based learning, which encouraged the development of new classroom activities. The interactions with faculty of other disciplines also facilitated exploration of potential assignments and approaches to incorporating the three dimensions of sustainability into major-specific courses.  In particular, working in depth with the Global Sustainability Goals enhanced my own understanding of sustainability beyond environmental concerns to include also social and economic issues.

Using what I learned from the workshop, I plan to include a discussion of the intersection of sustainability and biochemistry within the context of the Global Sustainability Goals in one of the laboratory sessions of my course, CHEM/BIO 342: Structure and Function of Biomolecules. This discussion will be linked with a protein structure visualization exercise and will culminate in student groups producing infographics connecting protein structure with the global sustainability goals.   The learning outcomes of this activity are two-fold: 1) to learn to use protein structure visualization and 2) to articulate the connections between biochemistry and global sustainability issues.  This assignment will also provide an opportunity for our science majors to practice communicating scientific and sustainability concepts to a general audience through their posters.