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"Connecting Concepts: Cell Biology/Thermodynamics" icon

Connecting Concepts: Cell Biology/Thermodynamics

This simulation/tutorial consists of five topics. In topic 1, students make decisions for a paramecium living in a Petri dish that will determine if it will have enough energy to survive and reproduce. Students will 1) decide whether the paramecium will eat, swim, or reproduce based on its available energy and the amount of energy required for each activity; and 2) Learn about cellular processes that require energy. In topic 2, students follow energy conversions in Euglena, during photosynthesis, respiration, and cellular work. Students will: 1)review definitions and properties of endergonic and exergonic processes; 2) explain, in qualitative terms, free energy changes in the universe, photosynthesis, respiration and cell work; and 3) identify the type of work (chemical, mechanical, etc.) being done in a number of cellular processes. In topic 3, students solve a mystery: where does ATP’s energy go in the glutamine synthetase reaction? Students will: 1) “interview” molecules to learn how ATP’s energy was released and absorbed in the ATP-coupled reaction; 2) reconstruct events leading to and from a high energy reaction intermediate; 3) identify which molecules (reactants, products, enzyme) got some of ATP’s energy. In topic 4, students learn what enzymes can and cannot do in a reaction by “hiring” an enzyme for the “job” of catalyst from a set of candidates that may be exaggerating their “qualifications.” Students will: 1) evaluate the claims of each enzyme to determine if they violate the chemical and thermodynamic properties of enzymes; and 2) select the “candidate” who is honest about what a catalyst can do in a reaction. In topic 5, students compare the energetics of photosynthesis, cellular respiration, and cellular work. Students will: 1) complete a review table that summarizes the energy inputs, outputs, free energy change, etc. of these processes; 2) review free energy change, ∆G, enzyme involvement, energy input and output.


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Marty Zahn
Marty Zahn (Retired Faculty)
9 years ago

An excellent, interactive exercise on energy and laws of thermodynamics. Helps students work through the concepts at their own pace. Can repeated as often as necessary.

Technical Remarks:

Requires Shockwave

Time spent reviewing site: 1 1/2 hours