Frantically rewriting lectures

Aaargh, neglecting the blog again. My big distraction today: as always happens, I looked over last year’s notes and grumped at myself and said this will not do, this is totally inadequate, I need to rewrite the whole thing. The plan for tomorrow was to talk about the pentose phosphate pathway AKA the hexose monophosphate shunt AKA the phosphogluconate pathway because this stuff is important and, weirdly, our textbook doesn’t even mention it, so I can’t even punt and tell the students to go away, don’t bother me, just read Chapter X. As is common in cell bio, all we talk about is how we burn sugar to make ATP, and very little about essential anabolic reactions. And that bothers me.

The PPP is cool beans, too, so I rewrote the lecture from the ground up to cover more of the details, expanding what used to be a short aside into the whole dang talk, and I’m probably going to terrify them all with a peek into more advanced biochemistry (this is a class for 2nd year students, so it’s introductory level) and the way all of biochemistry is tangled and intertwined, but hey, they’re smart students. They can take it.

Unfortunately, it’s stuff that isn’t going to entertain a more general audience, unless you think filling in the details on this introductory slide would get you excited.

Man, I was so into biochemistry as an undergrad, and then I got distracted by neuroscience and development. I need to begin a second lifetime so I can catch up.

Now I have to finish grading, which is far less enthralling.


  1. david says

    You could spice up the lecture, and add “relevance”, by discussing G6PDH deficiency in humans, and fava beans.

  2. PaulBC says

    Artor@1 Was that the amphetamines or the ability to pack his belongings in a suitcase and go somewhere else? Also, not sure which problem you are proposing to solve for PZ.

  3. R. L. Foster says

    My ignorance of your field shows, PZ. All I understood was ‘cool beans’ and the concept of being behind the curve.

  4. PaulBC says

    chrislawson@6 I thought he meant anabolic, just as he wrote: reactions that build up molecules instead of breaking them down. But I got lost rapidly, so who knows?

  5. nifty says

    Yes anabolic is correct- building new molecules, the opposite of catabolic) which often requires new carbon skeletons, for example to generate amino acids or heme groups. One of the major roles of this path in some tissues is to generate reducing power in the form of NADPH, which can add electrons and hydrogen to synthetic pathways. For example, the synthesis of fatty acids or sterols requires this pathway to be operating in high gear. In my 30+ years of teaching biochemistry this was one of my favorite things to teach. NADPH is also needed for drug detox metabolism and dealing with reactive oxygen species and oxidative damage.
    General pattern (of course always with some exceptions) NADH used to carry reducing power in catabolims, NADPH in anabolism

  6. Artor says

    As I vaguely mis-recall the details, Paul Erdős was a prolific mathematician, and he fueled his studies by a constant diet of amphetamines. He claimed he could stop whenever he wanted, and on the insistence of his colleagues who were worried about his health, he quit cold turkey for a month straight. Once he had proved he wasn’t technically an addict, he returned to his habit and told his friends that their little wager has set the study of mathematics back by several years, due to his lost productivity while not wigging out.

  7. birgerjohansson says

    I am pretty sure the people at Fox News or Brit newspapers like The Sun or Daily Mail do not have the problem of investing so much time on accuracy. Career change?

  8. chrislawson says

    Yep, I misunderstood. My only excuse is that years of covering basic biochem for med students has made me reach for “aerobic vs anaerobic” whenever the subject of burning sugar to make ATP comes up.