Elective Course Reviews

Critical Analysis of Molecular Cell Biology

Professor: Erin Cram (Biology)

Year Taken: Fall 2013

What to expect?

If your research involves biology and it is not the strongest aspect of your background, take this course. The course is designed as a prep class for biology graduate students preparing for the qualifying exam. The class combines molecular biology with new and more traditional techniques in the field. Each class begins with a lecture by Erin on some aspect of molecular biology (transcription, translation, RNA, cancer, etc.). This is followed by a student presentation of the assigned journal article that pertains to the subject of the day. Finally, a student presentation on a technique is given which often fits with the subject and journal article. After taking this class, you will have an understanding of various techniques that range from Western Blots to CRISPR. You will know when and why they are used and the pros and cons often attributed to them. Another benefit of this class is the design of the homework – one of the common questions is design an experiment to test (this) hypothesis….Include a description of methods, expected results, and important controls. These questions are invaluable to any graduate student and are guaranteed to improve your critical analysis skills. No tests/quizzes.

What not to expect?

If you are looking for a more in depth biology class you may want to look for alternative options. This class covers what many of us (chemical engineers) need in order to speak with biologists. In no way will you become a molecular biology expert, but you will most certainly gain a solid understanding of all aspects of the cell.


Quantitative Principles of Cell and Tissue Engineering

Professor: Anand Asthagiri (ChE)

Year Taken: Fall 2012

What to expect?

This class is designed for engineers and will address new and interesting ways of answering biological questions using engineering tools. The class focuses on primary literature that is relevant and interesting but also controversial (making for good discussions). The class was broken into three modules that addressed different ideas and concepts specific to tissue engineering. Each module started with a lecture and general overview of what was to come. The following classes were devoted to student-led presentations of the assigned journal article and a subsequent discussion. Quizzes were given at the end of each module, but grading was heavily dependent on class participation.

What not to expect?

Again, this class is designed for engineers. Someone who is interested in the biology of cell and tissue engineering should look elsewhere. The class was comprised of chemical, bio, and mechanical engineers, which was great for interesting discussions. Some of the papers are heavy on quantification (derivations, dimensionless numbers) and modeling, but all of them will give you good practice on critically analyzing these types of papers.



Professor:  Sunho Choi, Department of Chemical Engineering

What to expect?

– Great introduction to advanced polymer topics

– Lots of statistics! But not totally impossible since exams/assignments were straightforward

– Very interesting intro to advanced uses of polymers and methods to characterize them


Foundations of Spectroscopy (Chem 5637)

Professor:  Max Diem; Department of Chemistry

What to expect?

– Truly awesome class

– Introduction to all forms of spectroscopy from general Lasers/Excitation of Electrons to Raman/IR/UV-Vis spectra as well as more advanced forms of these techniques at forefront of science

– Lots of quantum physics and calculations including solutions to these differential equations used to describe the systems, however math stops at Hydrogen bond as 1-D Rotor


Electrochemical Engineering (CHME 5699)

Professor:  Elizabeth Podlaha-Murphy

What to expect?

This course is a great introductory course to electrochemistry. Important concepts such as the Faraday’s law, the Tafel slope, Butler-Volmer and Nernst equations are explored in details. The class then moves onto kinetics and mass transport limited electrochemical reactions with a brief introduction to electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS).  The math is very approachable, and a few practical applications are demonstrated in class during the semester.

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