Throughout my three and a half years at Concordia College, one aspect I have really enjoyed is the liberal learning that students are required to experience. Being a chemistry major and being required to take a set number of chemistry classes, it has been nice to take classes in other disciplines, such as religion, history, sociology, psychology, business, and math. Another aspect of Concordia’s core curriculum is the capstone course that students are required to take either their junior or senior year. The Capstone Course of the core curriculum focuses on student achievement of the goals for liberal learning, and emphasizes writing intensity and experiential learning. The Capstone Course allows students to exercise Concordia’s motto, BREW, which means to become responsibly engaged in the world.
As a senior at Concordia, I decided to take another chemistry class, neurochemistry, to fulfill my credits for the capstone course requirement. During registration, I was a little hesitant signing up for this course because I had little previous knowledge of the brain and the chemical aspects of it. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the majority of the students were experiencing this same feeling, so we all basically had the same initial understanding of the course content. I have always been interested in the chemical pathways of the brain, so I was really excited to explore a new discipline within the field of chemistry. Throughout the semester, I learned significantly more than I had expected to, despite the way in which this class was organized and facilitated.
Neurochemistry was very different from other chemistry classes and typical science classes regarding the way in which it was taught, which was a very nice change of pace. In contrast to typical science classes that are primarily lecture based, neurochemistry was discussion based where the majority of our learning came from communicating and interacting with other students in the class and also our professor. The first part of the semester consisted of learning about various different topics, such as neurotransmitter signaling, receptor types, essential ions and minerals, and many more. To learn about these topics, we primarily read literature articles and answered various questions about the article. The majority of our time was spent talking with other students about the article and trying to figure anything that we understand out.
After obtaining this basic knowledge of various neurochemical topics, we transitioned into the bulk of this class, which included an overview session, a background review session, and a discussion session. The overview session occurred on Mondays and consisted of reading an article and answering questions about the particular topic of the week. During class, we would then discuss the article and anything we didn’t understand. At the end of class, each student was assigned a topic to research and become an expert on. Wednesday was our background review session, which consisted of presenting our particular topic to students throughout the class in order to help them understand our topics better. Our discussion sessions occurred on Fridays, and throughout the semester, it became my favorite aspect of the class. Two to three students led each discussion in which we would discuss and talk about anything we felt was important in the paper. This was my favorite part of the course because it allowed everyone to bring their expertise together and contribute to the learning of others in a relaxed setting. It enabled us to get out of the classroom setting and utilize a different strategy to learning. We had the opportunity to be a discussion leader twice throughout the semester, so my leadership skills were significantly increased through our discussion sessions. These discussion questions really simulated what a science career really consists of. As a scientist, it will be essential for me to be able to communicate information effectively to my colleagues, which is essentially what was done in these discussions.
Overall, I have really enjoyed taking neurochemistry and feel that it achieved the goals of a liberal education and allowed us to become responsibly engaged in the world. It was nice to take a science class in which the learning wasn’t solely based on listening to a lecture. It was fun teaching other students in the class about various topics. Likewise, it was also fun learning from classmates about many different topics. I am glad I decided to take neurochemistry as my capstone course at Concordia.