Third year optional modules: Bioorganic Chemistry
I’ve already written a blog post on the first optional module I took this year – Communicating Science – so I thought why not write about all of them! When choosing my options I definitely focussed on what I was interested in, rather the ins and outs of assessment methods and which lecturer taught the module. While obviously it’s important to know what you’re getting into in terms of how much coursework and exams you’ll have, personally knowing I was interested in the subject was more important.
Like Communicating Science, Bioorganic was a 15 CAT module, but instead of being 100 % coursework based, it had a combination of exam and workshop assessment. I had an 1.5 hour exam last term that was worth 13.5 CATS, and have just submitted the written assignment to make up the remaining 1.5 CATS. This is all about using modelling software to create images to demonstrate molecular interactions in a given system, and we had a few computer workshops last term to help prepare us for the assignment.
Personally, I normally prefer getting a module ‘out of the way’ with exams, but I’ve actually really enjoyed doing this bit of coursework, and I feel like I was given plenty of time in which to complete it. We were told about it early in Term 2, but I chose to focus on my exams and work on it over Easter. While I thought I’d need most of the holiday to recover from exams, in all honesty having a bit of work to do over Easter was nice! I was given Term 3 lab prep to do over the holidays, and having this assignment (and a group project for my Analytical Chemistry core module) has given me a bit more variety.
But what is the module actually about? Well to be honest, the clue is in the name – this module focusses on the organic chemistry involved in biological processes, so expect a mix of biology and chemistry. Think protein folding and intermolecular interactions, and some organic mechanisms for good measure. This year, the module was split into two distinct sections. The first included polyketide and terpene biosynthesis and how enzymes assist in the process, as well as touching on coenzymes and how we use and develop natural products for medicine. While I found this section the most difficult, because you not only have to learn the mechanisms, but also apply them to various unseen molecules, I found it super interesting
The second section focussed more on the intermolecular forces involved in protein folding and the active sites of enzymes, with a focus on hydrogen bonding and the hydrophobic effect, as well as thermodynamic techniques used to measure them. While I still found this topic interesting, I personally found it less interesting and more repetitive than the first section of the module. Though on the plus side, this did make it easier for me to revise when it came to exams!
As a whole though, I would recommend this module. For me, it had variety while still having a manageable amount of content, and it builds well on the organic modules from previous years. I’d say that this is a good module for anyone who enjoys mechanisms, and has an interest in the chemical side of biology.