February 16, 2004

Yang, Jian
[BIOL W3004] Neurobiology I: Cellular & Molecular

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

I enjoyed this class because the material was interesting, but it took me half the semester to figure out how to study for the exams and read the papers. As a professor, Jian assumes that you know more than you probably do, in particular basic circuit physics and experimental procedures. He does, however, speak rather slowly (because english is his second language) and writes on the board which both allow you to take good notes in class. While he does require us to memorize endless details, they all come straight from the class notes or papers. The exams are going to focus not on how something works, but instead on how it would work if you did X to it, and how this increases our understanding of the system as a whole. Neurobio is a field still in progress so the focus of the class is very experiment oriented. You need to know why we believe so and so. The first test is almost all physics and most of the class drops it. After that it gets better. If you decide to take this class, I recommend the following for tests:

1. Write down everything he says in class including anything he says you do not need to know and memorize ALL of it. (do not focus on the book)
2. Study in groups, because you will inevitably miss something.
3. Make flash cards for numbers, statistics and chemicals
4. Understand the "story" of each process (biochemical pathway, different parts involved) using the book to fill in the gaps.
5. Make a list of experimental procedures described in class and in the papers and how each works. Toxins, Markers, and there effects on larger processes. He will ask you to "design" experiments on exams.
6. If he describes a specific experiment, know it well.

For reading papers:
1. There are helpful resources in the Bio library on the 6th floor of Fairchild.
2. Focus on understanding the diagrams, these are what usually appear on exams, in particular the techniques used to produce the image and what we learn from it.
3. If you have the time, especially for the final, go through the paper with a set of flashcards. For each step in the researchers thought process make a question and write down the answer. You will need to know how they reasoned the design of the experiment and their conclusions.
4. For the really detailed papers, use your best judgement on what is important. For example, we did a paper on the crystalized structure of rhodopsin. While we did not need to know every amino acid, we did need to know the ones that caused kinks in the chain, and what sequences allow the effects described in class. Also, we did a paper on the structure of a potassium channel, the point of the paper was how ion selection was achieved, and a key part to this involved the dimensions of the channel. These precise dimensions for the channel in angstroms were on our exam. Figure out what the paper is getting at and memorize those statistics.

Workload:

See above and judge for yourself. I put more work into this class than any other and I didn't take any joke classes.

3 midterms one of which you can drop and a final.
Very procedurally heavy scientific articles discussed in a weekly seminar + 2 or more chapters a week in the textbook.