- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
- "Why do hairdressers use thioglycolic acid for permanent hair treatment?”
- "Why is the spike protein called a glycoprotein?"
- "When you get ivy poisoning, where do you expect that the active ingredient (urushiol) will accumulate?”
- "Who was the scientist at the UC Davis Genome Center that came out with the idea of using papain protease to reduce saliva viscosity?"
Those were some of the questions that the 60 undergraduate students competing in the first-ever UC Davis Eric Conn Biochemistry Quizzes answered, and the two winning teams will now compete against two teams from Cardiff University, UK.
The answers: To break disulfide bridges; Because it is decorated with sugar; In the cell membrane; and Lutz Froenicke.
More than 300 attendees ZOOMed in to watch the Feb. 20 competition. The event can be viewed online at https://youtu.be/Y9T9ayRXyYE.
“I thought the quizzes would help students get out of the ZOOM routine," said organizer-moderator Walter Leal, UC Davis distinguished professor of molecular and cellular biology and a former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. "But I did not envision that there would be so much interest. The response was overwhelming, and students showed a genuine interest in the activity. They recorded videos for self-introduction, studied for the quizzes, and--more importantly--made new friends.”
Two teams emerged victorious: Ironic Bonds Team and the Gibbs Team.
“We are planning a global event on Wednesday, March 10, with our UC Davis players challenging UK's Cardiff University,” Leal announced. UC Davis Chancellor Gary May will deliver the welcome address.
The three-game virtual event, to begin at 11 a.m., Pacific Time on Zoom, will first pit UC Davis vs. UC Davis, and then Cardiff vs. Cardiff to determine the players in the championship game. The public is invited to view the event by registering here: https://tinyurl.com/dmnftsuj
“I am absolutely delighted to provide this opportunity for our students to learn biochemistry, have fun, work as teams, and build international ties,” Leal said. “Yes, remote learning is challenging, but it also creates new opportunities.”
UC Davis students who will compete in the Cardiff University event: Catherine Rodriguez, Jiaying Liu, Kelly Brandt, Aly Lodigiani, and Efrain Vasquez Santos of the Ironic Bonds Team; and Brandon Matsumoto, Tina Luu, Yasi Parsa, Esha Urs, and Kathryn Vallejo of the Gibbs Team.
The format of the game will be three questions per team, alternating one question for each team. “In the event of a tie,” Leal said, “each team will be asked one question at a time until we break the deadlock.”
While the teams work on the questions, Dr. Dean Blumberg, an epidemiologist and chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, UC Davis Children's Hospital, will answer questions about vaccines and vaccinations.
In an exit survey, the Eric Conn Biochemistry Quizzes drew such comments as:
- “It was wonderful....a nice way for students to showcase their knowledge to their families and friends and a wonderful tribute to a great UCD scientist. Kudos to Professor Leal for putting it together.”
- “This was a super fun event and I wish we could have the opportunity to have something like this again. It was a really good review of the material we learned.”
- "I am very proud of the students and hold both students and faculty in highest regard, very respectful and smart."
- "Congratulations to all that played today. You are inspiring young individuals and we know you will leave a mark on your chosen fields of study.”
- "Very impressed with the caliber of students involved. Great game!”
- "I wanted to play!"
Eric Conn (1923-2017), a member of the UC Davis faculty for 43 years, was the third recipient of the UC Davis Prize for Teaching and Scholarly Achievement. Described as an excellent teacher and researcher, Conn received the Academic Senate's Distinguished Teaching Award in 1974 and the Academic Senate's highest honor, the Faculty Research Lecturer Award, in 1977. He won the UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement in 1989.