Liberal learning at its finest: Concordia College Neurochemistry

In a typical class for a core requirement at Concordia College there is usually a new perspective, a new skill, a new set of knowledge, or even a new language is learned. In my studies in chemistry I would not expect to learn the theologies of Islam, ancient Greek myth, or the development of the medieval castle in Europe but I was surprised to find great interest in these subjects and many others. The liberal arts learning have instilled in me a love for learning as is the first goal of liberal learning at Concordia. To top off the liberal arts major we must take a capstone class in a topic of our choice. I chose to take Neurochemistry as it related to my major field of study. This class has been stimulating and challenging and I am grateful for the opportunity to take it.

The class does something that most others do not, we stick our heads out into the scientific community and grasp onto multiple subjects trying our best to understand them. This is a skill that I will need for my career as I will be reading and writing the same type of scientific publications we tackle. Not many classes are able to provide this type of experience as they rarely peek out of the textbooks and assigned book readings mostly because the other core classes are at the 100 to 200 level, basic classes. Neurochem throws us into a world without a textbook causing us to learn for ourselves, be resourceful, and depend on each other as a team to understand the complex publications that we read. We cannot simply refer to the textbook to solve a problem or solidify a concept we cannot understand because these papers are often illustrating cutting-edge research that has yet to be recorded in texts mostly because even the researchers are not 100% confident their conclusions are the correct answer to the problem. This allows us to also form opinions when we can look at multiple hypotheses relating to one subject. This helps me for my career in chemistry as I will have to form my own hypotheses about new projects that I will undertake as a graduate student and beyond.

What I really enjoyed about my capstone experience is the component of learning from my peers. Every week we dissect a paper and assign different sections that the class is struggling to understand to each person in the class. Then we come back in a few days and present what we learned after researching the topics assigned to us. Through this technique we are learning from each other’s interpretation of the material and therefore it has been simplified and summarized so we may understand it better. This will be something that is very helpful to multiple careers as it will most likely come up that we will have to present some information, reports, etc. to our colleagues and peers.

Overall, the class has been a great experience in teaching me new material in a new way, broadening my learning abilities, perspectives, and knowledge base. I have come away with greater analytical skills and the ability to dissect complex topics into simpler terms in order to understand them and move forward.

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