Probing the Relevance of Chemical Identity Thinking in Biochemical Contexts

The solving of problems in biochemistry often uses concepts from multiple disciplines such as chemistry and biology. Chemical identity (CI) is a foundational concept in the field of chemistry, and the knowledge, thinking, and practices associated with CI are used to answer the following questions: “What is this substance?” and “How is it different from other substances?” In this study, we examined the relevance of CI in biochemical contexts and first explored the ways in which practicing biochemists consider CI relevant in their work. These responses informed the development of creative exercises (CEs) given to second-­semester biochemistry students. Analysis of the student responses to these CEs revealed that students incorporated precursors to CI thinking in more than half of their responses, which were categorized by seven previously identified themes of CI relevant to the presented biochemical contexts. The prevalence of these precursors in student responses to the CEs, coupled with the examples provided by practicing biochemists of contexts in which CI is relevant, indicate that CI thinking is relevant for both students training to be biochemists and practicing biochemists.

Ngai, C. & Sevian, H. (2018). Probing the Relevance of Chemical Identity Thinking in Biochemical Contexts. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 17(4).