- 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.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Sixty UC Davis undergraduate students, divided into 12 teams with such names as “Green Team, “Amigo Acids” and “Attack on Titration,” will compete in the first-ever Eric Conn Biochemistry Quizzes, which will get underway on Zoom at 4 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 20.
“This will be a fun activity and one that memorializes the legendary plant biochemist Eric Conn (1923-2017), renowned in his field,” said organizer and coordinator Walter Leal, UC Davis distinguished professor of molecular and cellular biology and a former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
Conn, a UC Davis emeritus professor of molecular and cellular biology, "was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and his leadership at UC Davis helped establish the academic spirit of the College of Biological Sciences as it exists today," Leal said. "He strongly believed that a university professor should excel in both research and teaching.”
The public can register to view the event by logging in at https://tinyurl.com/y33eyc4v. It may become an annual event.
Initially, 40 students registered to compete—five per team—but the response was so overwhelming that Leal added four more teams. The first eight teams to register will compete on camera, while the other four teams will play “off tube.”
“I created the word in reference to the old TV set (a tube) to say that they will not be on camera,” Leal quipped. “These teams will play simultaneously with the teams playing on camera. We will have a scorekeeper, Radek Abarca, who will keep track of their response in real-time.”
“Team A will play along with the Proline Pros, and Team D will play along with Drop the Base,” Leal said. “Next, Team B will play along with the Krebs Cyclists,” and Team C will play with the Gibbs Team.”
The first 40 students to register introduce themselves, their majors and their hometowns in videos posted on Leal's Twitter account, @wsleal2014.
The first game pits the Green Team vs. the Amigo Acids and includes Almas Khan, Christopher Yun, Max Fallejo, Kathryn Vallejo, Alvin Kim, Caidon Iwuagwu, Jeffrey Toman, Karsen Culverhouse, Matthew Kim, and Sudev Namboordiri. On Leal's video, each also names his or her favorite amino acid.
In the second game, it's the Proline Pros vs. Drop the Base. Participants are Alyse Lodigiani, Anthony Weidner, Aaditi Gaikwad, Banin Alofi, Jennifer Kang, Rachel Levan, Anish Wadhwa, Ian Guzman, Viraj Deshpande and Yu-uki Onda.
The third game stars the Krebs Cyclists vs. the Gibbs Team. Participants are Joseph Morrison, Addison Ali, Alan Santana Cortez Molina, Shiwani KC, Frances Gross, Natalie Six, Yasamin “Yasi” Parsa, Brandon Matsumoto, Tina Luu and Esha Urs.
In the fourth game, the Attack on Titration will clash with the Ironic Bonds. Participants are Charlize Mitra, Kelly Kim, Maya Mysore, Lizeth Macias, Suzanne Quiroz, Natanie “Tonie” Leech, Jiaying Liu, Catherine Rodriguez, Lauren Hartwell and Kelly Brandt.
Participating students are from as far away as the City of Pune (India), Yokohama (Japan), Nanjing (China), and as close as the City of Davis. Other students hail from Cupertino, Los Angeles, Redwood City, Santa Monica, Palmdale, Irvine, Redding, Sacramento, Fairfield, Cupertino, San Jose, San Diego, San Ramon, Elk Grove, San Lorenzo, Lincoln, El Centro, Santa Rosa, Oakland, Roseville, Tracy, and Martinez in California, and Long Island in New York, among the many other municipalities.
“Each team of five players will be given three questions,” Leal said. “They will have one minute to confer while we hear stories about Eric Conn; see videos from staff, faculty and alumni and UC Davis friends; and watch public service messages on health topics such as COVID-19 and diabetes.”
College of Biological Sciences (CBS) faculty will ask questions via video. Emeriti Professors Clark Lagarias and Charles Gasser will judge the competition. The schedule also includes CBS Professor Judy Callis delivering a brief remembrance of Conn, and CBS Dean Mark Winey offering a message of encouragement to the students.
In her video, Dr. Allison Brashear, dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine, addresses the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines. Also planned: footages of favorite campus sites that students miss the most, and “even accounts of how departments were named in the old days,” Leal said. Plant pathologist George Bruening, professor emeritus, Department of Plant Pathology, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, will be among the faculty featured in the clips.
Conn, 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. See https://youtu.be/TdwJkcjQvbw.