Graduate student Crystal Archer gets the occasional request
from other students needing help with understanding data analysis and biophysical
“I realized that I need it too but not in a classroom
setting,” Archer said. “We were thinking that instead of asking to add or adjust
a course, we could make a biochemistry club to explore these ideas from a
That was the start of the Biochemistry Club which has so far
gained membership of 19 students.
“We wanted to make sure that the club wasn’t just for
biochemistry students, there are a lot of students who do biophysical
techniques so it’s for everyone,” Archer said.
Akash Bhattacharya, a postdoctoral trainee in Dr. Ivanov’s
lab explained that one of the important aspects of the club is that it is
student and postdoc-driven.
“Many graduate students are hesitant to ask what they think
are trivial or simplistic questions
especially to faculty so the club allows students to ask postdocs,”
Bhattacharya said. “What I’ve noticed is that there usually isn’t a mechanism for transference of skills
between graduate students and postdocs and it’s mostly done on a one-on-one
As a postdoc, Bhattacharya explained the club is a good way
for him to brush up on his own knowledge as well as gain teaching skills.
“I learn more by teaching and answering pointed questions,”
Bhattacharya said. “It helps me realize that there are gaps in my knowledge and
then I can go back and answer them.”
Bhattacharya also explained that the group is a great way
for students and postdocs to talk about research in the field of biochemistry.
“The amount of biomedical information out there is
overwhelming – you need to know how to sift through it. A case in point is the
Protein DataBase, which has over 100,000 structures deposited,” Bhattacharya
said. “But to gain biochemical and structural insight into your project – you
have to know what to look for – which means you have to be skilled in the use
of Chimera or some similar visualization software. This is not a trivial skill.”
The group conducted its first workshop with Dr. Rui Sousa where
they held a hands-on demo session with Chimera and DeepView, visualization
“We had attendees from outside departments apart from biochemistry
personnel. I think the session was a success.” Bhattacharya said.
Archer explained that the club is a way for students to
think about things in new ways.
“Deriving a ligand binding equation can be boring but
learning about it through, say, the biochemistry of beer then I can actually
see it happen,” Archer said. “It’s much easier to understand more complex ideas
with the freedom of a club rather than a course with a grade.”
In addition to the “Biochemistry in Beer” event which is tentatively set for Saturday, October 3; the club
also plans to host workshops on biochemistry career development, software, data
analysis and protein visualization.
The next meeting will be on September 21 from 6 to 8 p.m. in Room 5.0208 in the Research Administration Building.