Enhancing Understanding in Biochemistry Using 3D Printing and Cheminformatics Technologies: A Student Perspective

Anna Elizabeth Lohning, Susan Hall, Shailendra Dukie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Students often approach biochemistry with a degree of trepidation with many considering it one of the more difficult subjects. This is, in part, due to the necessity of making visual images of submicroscopic concepts. Molecular interactions underpin most biological processes; therefore, mastering these concepts is essential. Understanding the forces and mechanisms that underpin protein–ligand interactions is a key learning goal for mastering the protein structure–function relationship. We intended to overcome such learning barriers by implementing assignment-based activities across three successive biochemistry cohorts. The activities involved 3D printed proteins and cheminformatics/molecular modeling software activities which had the advantage of targeting students’ visual–spatial ability. Learning activities, conducted in small groups, were specifically designed to enhance understanding of the protein structure–function relationship through a detailed analysis of molecular-level interactions between proteins and ligands. Here we describe the methodology for preparation of the learning tools and how they were incorporated in the learning exercises in the form of both formative and summative assessments. We compared their perceived effectiveness via student feedback surveys conducted over three consecutive cohorts. Survey results showed students were positively engaged with these technologies with a slight preference for cheminformatics. From an instructor’s perspective, we found significantly improved overall grade averages for the subjects following implementation of the assignments which may suggest these tools contributed to enhanced understanding. While print resolution could not match that of cheminformatics software, we present evidence to support their continued incorporation in the course. Feedback obtained will inform future curriculum development
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2497-2502
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Issue number11
Early online date10 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2019


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