This syllabus contains lots of information. Please read it carefully and refer to it during the semester.
About Dr. White Course Schedule
Time and Place General Comments and Grading Groups and Group Function
Prerequisites Teaching Philosophy Midterm and Final Examinations
Recommended Texts Instructional Goals Final Group Project
Course Home Page

Instructor: Prof. Harold B. White
    Office: 203 Brown Laboratory
    Phone: 831-2908 (w), 737-7988 (h)
    E-mail: halwhite at
    Office Hours: Normally, the hour after class will be available for office hours; however, you should feel free to contact me by phone or e-mail or to stop by my office at other times. If I do not have pressing business, I will be happy to meet on the spur of the moment.

Meeting Time and Place: 9:05 - 9:55 AM, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in 205 Brown Laboratory. Normally, important announcements are made at the beginning of class. Similarly, homework is due at the beginning of class. The tentative course schedule is available on line.

Prerequisite: CHEM-527 or CHEM-641, or equivalent. CHEM-642 or BISC-401 useful.

Text: There is no required text; however, you need to have one. Lehninger's Principles of Biochemistry by Nelson and Cox is the text for CHEM-641 & 642, can be used as a reference book in CHEM-643. A variety of textbooks will be available in the classroom for borrowing. The money you save by not buying a text can be used to photocopy articles that create personal resource files on case study problems and your case study topic.

General Comments and Grading: Because CHEM-643 is a graduate-level course with a relatvely small enrollment, personal initiative in the form of outside reading and class participation is expected. A fundamental general background in biochemistry at the level of CHEM-527or 641 is assumed. Classes will be structured around interactive lectures  and class and group discussion of problems. Evaluation of each student's performance will be based on homework assignments (30%), midterm examination (25%),  group project (10%), and a final exam  (30%). "APPA" (attendance, preparation, participation, and attitude) constitute the remaining 5%.

Intermediary metabolism is such a vast subject within biochemistry that there is only enough time in a general survey course to present a few fundamental pathways, and few students get a "feel" for the subject. Even in a full semester course like CHEM-643, many interesting and important topics go unmentioned. The first half of this course (see tentative schedule) will deal mostly with general principles and with pathways discussed in general textbooks but not covered in depth in CHEM-641/642. Classes from late October into December will be devoted to group work on Case Study/PBL (Problem-Based Learning) Problems.

Teaching Philosophy: Courses in intermediary metabolism share with organic chemistry the reputation for presenting enormous amounts of tedious information that has to be regurgitated on impossible examinations. This course is not about memorization of every structure in obscure pathways. You will have a lifetime to do that, if you want. (However you will need to know the structures of the common amino acids, simple sugars, common fatty acids, and nucleotides, as well as recognize the structures and know the functions of common coenzymes.) This course is about understanding, thinking, pursuing knowledge, identifying resources, and communicating. It is about making metabolism understandable, hopefully interesting, and possibly exciting enough that you will want to continue learning about it for the rest of your life. These learning goals are aligned with departmemntal learning goals.

People learn best and almost effortlessly when they want to know something. Why else is it that many students (and some faculty) can recite for hours the details of prime time TV shows, the personal lives of celebrities, or football statistics without expecting to be examined on the information? Intermediary metabolism will never have a comparable appeal; however, learning about it will come easier when there is a need to know, a focus for your learning, and a social component. This is the essence of the problem-based approach to learning. Thus, in addition to interactive lectures, I will ask questions to encourage interactive classroom discussions, assign homework problems where collaboration is acceptable, and have you work in groups during class time on case study/PBL problems. Hopefully you will find these problems interesting and stimulate you to ask questions - learning issues - in your pursuit of knowledge about intermediary metabolism.

Groups and Group Function:

Early in the semester, each student will be assigned to a group of 4 or 5 students. These groups will function independently during class and outside of class. The collective resources and efforts of the group will be used to deal with the case-study/PBL assignments.  For example, several learning issues may be identified in group discussion during class and group members will be assigned or volunteer to investigate particular issues and report back to the group. The goal is to have everyone learn more than they would have working alone. Nevertheless, individual work (often 8 - 12 hours/week outside of class) provide the foundation for productive and synergistic group work. If you have questions or reservations about working in groups, please discuss them.

In order to promote effective group function, each group needs to discuss and agree upon a list of ground rules.  All students will evaluate themselves and their fellow group members with respect to contributions to group function at the end of the semester. This evaluation will contribute to the "appa" (attendance, participation, preparation, and attitude) portion of the course grade and will be used primarily in deciding borderline grades.

Problems and Case Studies (30%):

                                       Tell me, and I will forget.
                                        Show me, and I may remember.
                                        Involve me, and I will understand."

This perceptive Chinese proverb, recognizes the limited effectiveness of lectures. Involvement is the key to learning. The process is as important as "the answer." While reading and studying help learning, solving problems focuses learning on knowledge gaps and requires one to review and integrate knowledge. I wish to promote this conceptual understanding through involvement. Thus, I assign homework problems. These often challenging problems, posted on the course web-site, are intended to stimulate understanding by thinking about and analyzing material from the research literature. They may require 5 to 10 hours or more per week to complete. There will be seven homework problem sets during the first part of the course. They are due at the beginning of class on successive Wednesdays. Homework assignments will not be accepted after the day they are due without explanation. Because my objective is your understanding, I encourage you to use the library, the Internet, and discuss these problems with other students in and outside of class. You may consider diverse resources including faculty here and elsewhere (via e-mail) after you have spent some time analyzing the problems on your own.

While only individuals learn, interactions with others can enhance the learning process. Thus, students may work together on solving these problems. I encourage such interactions and do not consider it cheating. However, "working together" here does not imply a divide-and-conquer approach in which students pool their individual work, but do not discuss it. Plagiarism or paraphrasing the work of others does not demonstrate understanding. Write-up your answers in your own words on your own to show what you understand. I look for well-thought-out answers that are clearly and neatly presented. I also expect your acknowledgment of the resources you use (books, articles, web sites, and people), i.e., if you work with others, please list their names at the top of your assignments. If you are uncertain about what constitutes plagiarism or how the university deals with cases of academic dishonesty such as plagiarism, check out the student handbook web-site devoted to these issues.  There is the possibility that there will be one or two pop quizzes relating to the homework assignments on the mornings they are due to be sure that everyone understands and is not basing their homework answers on the understanding of others.

The Case Study/PBL problems assigned in the second half of the course are more open-ended and complex. Assignments related to the 2 or 3 of the 4 case study/PBL problems will be due about two weeks after each problem is introduced. Both the homework problems and the case study/PBL problems are based on information gleaned from the biochemical literature. As with the homework problems in the first half of the course, the purpose of these exercises is to promote understanding of metabolism by thinking about and analyzing real metabolic problems.

Midterm and Final Examination  (25% + 30%):
Prior to 2004, there were no formal examinations in this course. However, as the enrollment has grown and the course has become phased in as a required course in the undergraduate biochemistry curriculum, it has become more difficult for me to assess each student solely on class assignments and a final interview.
Therefore, there are midterm and final examinations based on conceptual understanding and interpretation of data. Last year's Midterm and Final Examinations are available along with all exams since 2004.

Final Group Project (10%):
This assignment  replaces the individual case study writing assignment from past years. It is intended to be a capstone experience in which you will use knowledge and skills you have acquired throughout your education and apply them to a research problem. Each group will have a similar but distinct problem that will be written up in the form of a scientific article and presented orally to the class during the last week of the semester.


Each person has distinctive knowledge, experiences, learning styles, and communication skills. The person who knows the most may not be the person who explains things best. Success in life often depends on the ability to work together and tap the different strengths of coworkers. In order to contribute to the learning of your classmates and to learn from them, you need to Attend class regularly and be on time, arrive Prepared, Participate in discussions, and generally have a constructive Attitude. To encourage these traits, 5% of your grade will depend on them.

While your grade will be based on your performance, there is no grading curve in this course. If everyone does "A" work, everyone will get an "A." It is in your best interest to help your classmates; however, do it as a teacher. If you know something, don't just give the information. Explain it. Practice effective communication. If you don't know something, seek understanding rather than "the answer." Develop the skill to recognize and define what you don't know and learn to go beyond superficial answers.
Return to Department's Home Page,  CHEM-643 Home Page, or Hal White's Home Page,
Created 2 August 2001, Last updated 4 August 2014 by Hal White. [halwhite at]
Copyright 2014, Harold B. White, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716