Nicholas Santiago

Nicholas Santiago is a graduate student in the Department of Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His research focuses on establishing mechanistic links for the association of developmental manganese exposure with learning, memory, attention, and fine-motor dysfunction in children. Nicholas is participating in the PDP to learn new teaching strategies that he may adapt overtime to make learning science more engaging and accessible to his students.


Teaching Activity Summary

Name of Teaching Activity"To Bind or Not To Bind: an exploration of the effect of IMF on enzyme-substrate binding"

Teaching VenueMARC Summer Research Institute PREP

Teaching Dates:  June 26-27, 2018

Location: University of California, Santa Cruz

Learners: 8 undergraduates.

Reflection on teaching and assessing the practices of science or engineering:

Our inquiry activity teaching venue was a two-day workshop for participants of the MARC program, which supports the education and research career goals of students of a multitude of ethnic, socioeconomic, and first-generation backgrounds. Our workshop was focused on clarifying common misconceptions biochemistry students have of how shape, charge, and stereospecific principles affect substrate-enzyme binding. As determined by an evaluation of students’ responses to two examples of enzyme binding represented in textbooks it was found that students have a difficult time connecting the use of all three complementarities because these concepts are often taught as separate units. A better practice was proposed to teach a model that depicts all three complementarities at once, so that students may grasp the importance of each complementarity (Linenberger and Lowery, 2014). Thus, the goal for our inquiry activity was for our learners to leave with an understanding and appreciation of how all three complementarities (geometric, electronic, and stereospecificity) are necessary for successful substrate-enzyme interactions. This basic principle is fundamental for a variety of fields in the sciences as reflective in our team dynamic of biochemistry, genetics, microbiology, and neuroscience studies.

While teaching our content goal learners utilized the importance of developing and using models to demonstrate understanding of scientific phenomena. In choosing this practice to focus on we felt that developing a model is a useful method to understand the relationship between the inputs, outputs, and interacting components of a biological system. This practice may help learners to work through the variables of a phenomena for their own understanding as well as help them to clearly explain their knowledge of the phenomena to others. Moreover, developing and utilizing models is a way that learners may apply an engineering component to utilize an authentic scientific practice, which is not only useful to understand the content of our inquiry activity, but may be applied to further science experiences our learners will have after completing our workshop.

To assess our learners’ understanding we created a rubric that reflected whether learners used specific language and/or illustrations that demonstrated the importance of all three complementarities for their created molecule to bind to their given enzyme active site in the investigation portion of our workshop. The rubric was separated into understanding of geometric, electronic, and stereospecific complementarities and individuals were scored as either an M for evidence of understanding is missing or not evident, a 0 for evidence of misconception or incomplete understanding, or a 1 for evidence of clear and sufficient understanding. A separate rubric was created for their understanding of using a model to explain scientific phenomena. These rubrics were used to evaluate their written assessment and oral presentation to the group. As evident in our workshop we observed some learners that excelled in their verbal explanation for their justification of their design, while others seemed more comfortable with writing and drawing their explanation. Thus, having both modalities to aid us as facilitators in scoring each learner’s understanding proved beneficial for determining the success of meeting our content goal. Based on our end rubric evaluations and from our debrief discussion with our learners we believe that the learners came away with a better appreciation and understanding of substrate- enzyme binding interactions as well as a growth in their identity as scientists.


Linenberger, S. & Lowery Bretz, S. (2014) “Biochemistry Students’ Ideas About Shape and Charge in Enzyme–Substrate Interactions” Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education 203-212.