The first day of Neurochemistry. The last first day of college as it happened to be. I was a senior chemistry major and all I could think was here we go another lecture course about chemistry. I have been doing this since freshman year, nothing will be different. Oh was I wrong.
While the first few weeks did have lecture so that we would all have the basics that is not what the class was about. Suddenly I found myself having to post on a wiki and use computers and the internet far more often. I am more of a paper and pen kind of student. I like my textbooks with actual pages and my notebooks bound. Instead of a textbook I got to go out and find the research myself. This was not at all what I was expecting.
Then we got past the basics and things became even less structured. Every week we have a new published paper to try to understand. You never quite appreciate how wordy scientist are until you try to read a full neurochemistry article on Sunday night. However every week it got easier. I would sit down with my printed out paper and a highlighter and try to find the important parts of the paper. Google was my constant companion for the inevitable words I did not know. The best part was that if I did not understand the article I could hear about how others had understood it on Monday. We would all ask questions and each take a thing to research and report back on what we found on Wednesday. By Friday we had all hopefully had a good idea of the paper and were able to discuss it together in the comfortable chairs in the campus center. This is how I learned neurochemistry.
The things I learned in neurochemistry cover a wide variety of topics. As much as people say weed is not a harmful drug it will still mess with your brain. Mental illness is definitely genetic but how you live your life can impact it. Concussions are scary and I still don’t understand why people want to do sports. Protein build-ups in the brain are terrible and are some of the driving factors behind Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease. Most of all exercise and eating right are very beneficial to your brain.
The best thing I learned in neurochemistry is how to learn. I am now looking at graduating from college and going out into the real world where there will be no lectures and no homework. There will be no structured way for me to learn new things in chemistry. There will be no textbooks to read as I will have to keep up with advancements in the field as they are made. Facing this daunting task I am so glad to have taken neurochemistry. From all the practice I know how to find good science articles. Working to understand each weeks article has given me the skills to try to understand articles that I pick out. Now I can face the challenges I set for myself.
Overcoming challenges can also be very rewarding. One of the greatest challenges in neurochemistry was the tests. How do you make tests in a class that has no right answers. Well we are given the bulleted outline of a paper and have to come up with the pathway and interactions we think it is talking about. These test are the closest thing I have come across in class to actually doing science in the real world. You must take bits of information you have gathered and bring it together into a cohesive whole. Granted when you do research you tend to get your information from your own experiments not just from the outline of a paper but it still holds. The tests were challenging but I have not been as proud of getting a good score on a test as when I did well on the neurochemistry exams.
As I go out into the big wide world I go with the knowledge I have collected from my four years here at Concordia. I would like to thank a great many people; My professors for teaching me about chemistry, My peers for teaching me how to love science, and Neurochemistry for teaching me that I really do know science and even when I don’t I can always learn.