Seriously How do you bio people memorize so much info?

  • #26
DocToxyn
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Look at it this way, you have to be exposed to all the different aspects of biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, etc in order to find out what you like and hopefully are good at. Biology does encompass some considerable rote memorization but it can eventually pay off if you follow that field, even as a hobby. I still remember many of the scientific names of the plants and animals I studied in plant sytematics or ichthyology. It's kinda fun to be able to spout those off when you encounter the same species years later.

I will say that the process of cramming that info into your head and then dumping it out on test day is tedious and difficult. Also it unfortunately can be used by unscrupulous teachers who won't take the time to formulate a more thoughtful question, although in some cases the only way to find out if you studied the work is by spitting it back out verbatim. One you target in on a field you enjoy and wish to pursue, the info just seems to accumulate in your head and you can pull it out whenever you like. Repetition can be a great tool for getting the basics of a science across and then you are able to apply what you know in real-world research/applications.
 
  • #27
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It could be worse. You could have gotten a zero on the test, but you didn't you passed it. By the skin of your teeth, but you'll be prepared for next time. :smile:
 
  • #28
Math Is Hard
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I bought a used biology text last week on Amazon.com. Amazing how a $130 textbook can drop to about ten bucks when a new edition is released. It's a gorgeous book - beautifully illustrated and it weighs about 87 lbs. :biggrin:

It's a subject I know very little about so I thought I would just pick up something to begin reading and learning a little bit. (I have to take a biology course at some point for my major).

I can't imagine learning all the stuff in that book. There's just so much! Yikes! :surprised

I'll be taking "Bonehead Biology", thank you very much! :smile:
 
  • #29
Moonbear
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Math Is Hard said:
It's a gorgeous book - beautifully illustrated and it weighs about 87 lbs. :biggrin:
The other good use for biology text books. :biggrin: No flabby arms for us bio majors! :rofl:
 
  • #30
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so-crates said:
I'm in organic right now. Some people have claimed that you can 'figure things out' without having to memorize a bunch of different reactions, but I don't see it. There are trends, and some trivial reactions are pretty obvious, but a large percentage simply has to be memorized.

Edit: This is part of the reason why I dislike organic. In the real world, I can look up any reaction I want. Why should I have to memorize 100s of different mechanisms, etc. that tell me next to nothing about a reaction which I have not encountered before. I have a theory that organic is just a weed out course for people who thinking about med school, since you have to do a similiar thing in memorizing a large amount of information.
Despite what the pharmaceutical intern said, you can't always just look up a mechanism for any given reaction, especially for new reactions. Even a simple reaction like a Wittig reaction has some three or four competing mechanisms, all with their own experimental evidence. It takes years of studying and memorizing various mechanistic pathways in order to understand and interpret the results of new reactions. Various patterns emerge and it's far easier to pick up, say, the glycolytic pathway if you've had good training with mechanisms. In fact, I took biochem after a lot of organic coursework and much of the glycolytic pathway, pentose phosphate pathway, fatty acid metabolism, hormone synthesis, etc. was highly intuitive to me by the time I took it.
 
  • #31
Ouabache
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Every biology course I have encountered required memorization. Biochem in particular, seemed to have the market cornered on volume of things to memorize. (With lots of kicking and raving, I managed to survive two grad biochem classes). While preparing for those exams, on more than one occasion I recall waking in a sweat, having nightmares about pathways that were so jumbled they made absolutely no sense :surprised
There are always going to be courses that are less favored than others. My successful approach has been to just hang on and try your best, one exam at a time.

Now physics, math and engineering were a breath of fresh air for me. They all stressed problem solving (no memorizing yea!! :smile: )
If you practised solving enough problems, you can do great not only on exams, but after college too.

A doctor friend of mine expressed a similar experience in Med School, a lot of boring memorization. His BS was in physics and agreed that physics and math emphasize problem solving. He went on to point out, that "memorization" is a lower form of learning. :biggrin: At best you do a memory dump at exam time.. How much will you actually recall 1 or 5 years from now?? Whereas "problem solving" is a thought process. Once you cultivate that skill, you can use it again and again throughout your life.
 
  • #32
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There's a good point there Ouabache. I have found that if you go into a test and don't second guess yourself and don't try to gage how you will do, but just go in and take the test you get less stressed out so it is easier to take the test. Less stress + prepared = better test grade.

At least for me that is. :smile:
 
  • #33
cronxeh
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I like how you used word 'thought process'. I think when you do by learning you develop synapses that will be initiated the next time a similar problem with similar initial conditions will arise. Particularly this could be one of those things that lets you see analogous shapes, forms, problems, sounds, etc. Things that computers arent able to solve (particularly a geometric letters that inter-cross and wiggle)
 
  • #34
Monique
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Ouabache said:
Now physics, math and engineering were a breath of fresh air for me. They all stressed problem solving (no memorizing yea!! :smile: )
Don't you have to study formulas? I once did rheology and it involved stuying these very complex formulas and relating them all to eachother. Pathways can be very logical if you look at the structures of molecules, they do not magically appear out of nowhere.

If you only do memorization in biochem, you are doing something wrong.
 
  • #35
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For me the problem seems to be that the glycosic, TCA cycles and other biochem-stuff are just way too long and complicated to be 'reasoned' all the way through. There are too many directions you could go in any given point in the cycles just to rely on reason. But if you have some memorized focal points on the way, then you can (maybe) fill in the gaps with reason. But I'm speaking with only an organic chemistry course and some self studies in molecular biology under my belt, so I don't know.

Anyway, good to hear I'm not the only one with headaches over this. :smile:
 
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  • #36
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I'm sure this next chapter on oxidative phosphorylation is going to be even more dandy with even more memorization required.
 
  • #37
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Ouabache said:
Every biology course I have encountered required memorization. Biochem in particular, seemed to have the market cornered on volume of things to memorize. (With lots of kicking and raving, I managed to survive two grad biochem classes). While preparing for those exams, on more than one occasion I recall waking in a sweat, having nightmares about pathways that were so jumbled they made absolutely no sense :surprised
Heh heh. I think there's a general problem in the way biochem is taught. At the undergrad level, yeah, it can seem like a lot of memorization when you don't yet have the background to understand the chemistry of it. But it's frustrating that they continue to teach it the same way at the graduate level, when you should be able to expect students to have more background and the ability to understand that there is some method to the madness. Afterall, somebody, or some group of people, worked out how all these pathways work, so there must be a way to understand it without rote memorization. Unfortunately, my experiences with biochem profs has been less than satisfactory as well. It seems like they all teach it the same way; they just don't seem to know any other way. Afterall, I had been memorizing glycolysis and gluconeogenesis pathways since high school freshman biology. Surely by the graduate level there is something more interesting to be taught and learned about it. When I was a post-doc, I decided to sit through a grad level biochem class at that university as well, thinking that seeing how it's taught by faculty at a different university might give me better ideas about it, but it was still the same thing. Can't we at least assume that by the time someone gets to graduate school in biochemistry that they know what the 20 amino acids are and the abbreviations used for them, what a purine and pyrimidine are, the difference between DNA and RNA, the different types of RNA, that DNA is transcribed to RNA and RNA is translated to protein, etc? But yet they go through all of this over and over again as if it's brand new material. It wasn't even new in college Freshman bio, but at least there you can assume some students came from high schools where the science curriculum may have been weak. By the time you're in grad school, you already know "what" happens, you want to know "how and why" does it happen.

A doctor friend of mine expressed a similar experience in Med School, a lot of boring memorization. His BS was in physics and agreed that physics and math emphasize problem solving. He went on to point out, that "memorization" is a lower form of learning.
Unfortunately, it shouldn't be memorization, but that's what the med students make of it. We have a course here that is required both for med students and some of our grad students. It's absolutely amazing how different the two groups' approach to learning is in that course. For the med students, they need a C to pass the course, and for grad students, they need a B to pass, so the standards are already different. But, the med students are content with just a C. They memorize just as much as they need to in order to get a C and are happy with that. The grad students want to understand the material, and whatever their grade, they strive to learn as much as they can of it. There's a lab component, and you should hear the grad students complain when they get stuck with a med student in their lab group.

But there is a lot more that does need to be memorized in your basic biology courses than in your basic physics courses. You also jump right into material that isn't something you've watched happen your whole life. Think about it. When you start out in biology, you learn all about what a cell is and a lot of things that go on inside that cell. You've never seen the inside of a cell growing up. When you start out in physics, you learn things like speed, velocity, acceleration, friction -- things you've experienced every time you've gotten in a car. The forces may be invisible, but you've felt them nonetheless. It makes it easier to understand through a bit of intuition about your experiences rather than something that's entirely new right from the start. How much more difficult would people perceive physics to be if you jumped straight into the material on quantum physics and relativity?
 
  • #38
Monique
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Moonbear said:
Can't we at least assume that by the time someone gets to graduate school in biochemistry that they know what the 20 amino acids are and the abbreviations used for them, what a purine and pyrimidine are, the difference between DNA and RNA, the different types of RNA, that DNA is transcribed to RNA and RNA is translated to protein, etc? But yet they go through all of this over and over again as if it's brand new material.
Yes, that is my biggest irritation in gradschool too. They spend all their time on trivial stuff, and when it comes to some serious stuff it is skipped because it is too complicated or there is no more time :yuck:

Today I attended a three hour lecture on B cell and allergy, part of a graduate course. The first hour was ok, where the synthesis of IgE was discussed and the two TH2 mechanisms introduced. But the rest was no more than introductory material (which already had been covered extensively in the preceding lectures) of what lymph nodes are, what the spleen is, how recombination takes place of the immunoglobulins. When we finally came to the relevant chapter of the book, all the time was up. Imagine my disappointment.
 
  • #39
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I think thats the problem with these courses that are hybrids with 2 different fields. The first exam all the bio majors did horrible, we had to spend like 2-3 weeks going over acid base chemistry, equilibrium constants, the hendersen hasselbach eq. etc., all highschool chem and gen. chem stuff. Now the course has turned to more bio, so all the chem majors sucked on this last test while I'm sure all the bio people aced it. The bio majors have been doing this stuff for 4 years, the last time I had bio was freshman year of highschool.
 
  • #40
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gravenewworld said:
I think thats the problem with these courses that are hybrids with 2 different fields. The first exam all the bio majors did horrible, we had to spend like 2-3 weeks going over acid base chemistry, equilibrium constants, the hendersen hasselbach eq. etc., all highschool chem and gen. chem stuff. Now the course has turned to more bio, so all the chem majors sucked on this last test while I'm sure all the bio people aced it. The bio majors have been doing this stuff for 4 years, the last time I had bio was freshman year of highschool.
I don't think that should have anything to do with it. The bio majors need to know that chemistry as well. If they don't know equilibrium constants and the Henderson-Hasselbach equation yet, they don't belong taking biochemistry. They should have covered it in both general biology and general chemistry before ever getting to a biochemistry class. That's one of those things that's redundant all over the curriculum (at least it's something that you'll use in "real life.")
 
  • #41
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Monique said:
Yes, that is my biggest irritation in gradschool too. They spend all their time on trivial stuff, and when it comes to some serious stuff it is skipped because it is too complicated or there is no more time :yuck:
Unfortunately, some of our faculty teach like that as well. We have a new course coordinator for one of our grad level classes, and she's doing her best to weed out those faculty and replace them with people who don't teach the same basic lecture in every class.

The students usually like the way I teach the grad level classes I teach because, while I do start out with some overview of stuff they already should know, I tell them I know most have seen it ad nauseum before and that's why I'm going to fly through it really quickly just to make sure everyone remembers it. I then let them know that if anyone in the class has not seen that material before, then they need to make an appointment with me to learn it (in other words, I want them to know it, but I'm not going to waste the time of the class re-teaching it to everyone). We then spend the rest of the class going into detail on one or two very recent journal articles. It takes a lot of time to prepare a meaningful class like that because I have to find articles that actually relate to the topic and that include experiments that do a good job of illustrating many concepts, but if I want students who are well-trained as scientists, that's time that's important to take.
 
  • #42
Monique
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I really like your method of teaching, I think it is perfect. Basic slides are important for refreshing memory, but no time should be spend on them.

The current course has a very intresting teaching method. One day is a 3-hour lecture, at the end we get handed two articles after which two students are appointed to present the next day and the rest to prepare questions. The next day there is a total of 3 hours to discuss the material. This is repeated for 4 weeks. This way we learn what is going on at the research institutes, study recent literature, develop reading and presenting skills, learn how to be critical of articles, and learn to speak up in groups (there is not exam, students are judged on participation).
 
  • #43
Ouabache
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Monique said:
Don't you have to study formulas? I once did rheology and it involved stuying these very complex formulas and relating them all to eachother.
In physics and engineering, my courses approached formulas by deriving them from first principles.. That way if we needed one, we could derive as needed. At exam time, you often don't have time to derive formulas, however the professors knew that and most allowed students to bring a sheet of notes. If you practised solving enough problems, you remembered the ones you need..

Pathways can be very logical if you look at the structures of molecules, they do not magically appear out of nowhere.
If you only do memorization in biochem, you are doing something wrong.
You're right, and I actually enjoyed reading my biochem book (i believe we used Stryer), it was quite interesting. And I followed the logic of the pathways, molecular structures, binding affinities, stereochemistry, fun stuff!!
I realized early on, there were subjects I excelled in and others that were not my strongest suit. Biochem was one of the later and understandably, organic chem was another. I am sure it was accelerated rate at which the information was presented, that hindered me (and the way my brain processes that material). My brain works with mathematical constructs much better.
 
  • #44
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heheheh i love bio! :rolleyes:
you dont memorise all of it! omg that would be so bad!!
i guess if you listen in class then you will remember it better and itll be easier when youre studying
i think its much easier to remember thing than to work things out, thats why i love bio!
:shy:
 

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