Goal of the course
The course will aim at introducing students to a key element in scientific literacy, namely critical reading of research papers.
This will include, among other items:
- Identify the structure of scientific papers.
- Understand which section to read first and why.
- Formulate in your own words what is the ‘big question’ that is addressed.
- Identify the specific aims and the corresponding hypotheses.
- Identify the experimental approaches employed.
- Learn how to interpret and explain the various graphs/figures.
- Identify the experimental versus control groups and clarify what each ‘control’ means.
- Critically analyze the authors’ explanation/interpretation of the results.
- Critically analyze the conclusions of the authors as to whether or not the results support their hypotheses.
Scientific Content of the course
The research papers used in the course will focus on the molecular basis of neurodegeneration.
More specifically, on amyloids as key causative agents of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and depending on time – ALS or prion disease.
The papers will describe experimental approaches, (in vitro, in cell culture and in animal models) to characterize the structural elements of the the amyloids involved in pathogenic aggregation for each of the addressed pathologies.
In addition, the papers will illustrate novel approaches for discovering compounds that are capable of inhibiting amyloid aggregation. Such compounds may serve as leads for developing disease-modifying therapeutics for these disorders.
Format of the course
The course will be highly interactive. The time devoted to ‘frontal lecture’ by the teacher will be minimal. Rather, each student will be required to actively participate in group discussion in which s/he will raise questions regarding the content and the format of the assigned paper.
A list of 5-8 research papers will be assigned for reading, PDF versions of each paper will be provided well ahead before the beginning of the course.
In preparation for each daily session the students will have to read an assigned scientific paper. Depending on class’ progress with a given paper – the next-day students will either continue working on the paper from the previous day, or start with the next paper on the list. For the first couple of papers a set of questions will be provided ahead of time to help the students to prepare themselves for discussion of the paper in class. The goal is that for subsequent papers in the course the students will be able to formulate such questions by themselves, and attempt to answer them.