:: Spotlight: David Hoffman

Posted: December 12, 2011

UT Professor Demystifies Biochemistry

Dr. David Hoffman, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at The University of Texas at Austin, teaches BCH 369 - Fundamentals of Biochemistry for both the University and University Extension (UEX).

Fundamentals of Biochemistry is a popular course with students preparing for a medical career, as it meets one of the prerequisite course requirements for admission to medical schools in Texas.

In the following interview, Dr. Hoffman discusses his passion for biochemistry and how he communicates that passion to his UEX students.

Why do you think this course is valuable?

I think the course gives students an understanding of how living things (like us!) actually work. I think its amazing that we can eat food, and somehow this gives us energy to move muscles. After the course, the process should be a lot less mysterious.

The course also covers many topics that are relevant to health, such as antibiotic resistant bacteria, diabetes, diet, how drugs work, cholesterol, trans fats, DNA damage and cancer.

What is your favorite lesson or activity to share with your UEX students?

I have a lot of favorite course topics, which is why I enjoy teaching this particular course so much! Some of my favorite questions addressed by the course are:

  • What happens to your body while you exercise?
  • What’s diabetes?
  • Would it be possible for bacteria to live below the surface of Mars?
  • How does the HPV vaccine work?
  • How do drugs work, and why are some drugs so expensive?
  • How have living things changed earth’s atmosphere during earth’s history?

I think many of the course topics are relevant to students’ lives, and relevant to mine, too.

This is my favorite course to teach, and I really enjoy the smaller class sizes offered by UEX.

What do you think particularly sticks with your students after taking your course?

The world looks a bit different to me while I’m teaching Fundamentals of Biochemistry, and I hope this is true for students, too. When I see plants, I think of how they are using solar energy to make carbohydrate. And food looks more like “fuel”. But it still tastes good!

Is there any particular information about your teaching experiences, course or area of expertise that you would like to share with readers?

One of my passions is understanding how things work, and I think this influences how I teach the course. This passion also explains my research interests, where I am studying protein structure in UT’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Dr. Hoffman regularly teaches BCH 369 - Fundamentals of Biochemistry as an evening classroom course for UEX.

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