Project Reflection: a.) What is the relevant biochemistry for preventing or treating a COVID-19 infection from SARS-CoV-2? At the end of your answer, describe what beliefs (if any) you held at the beginning of the semester in relation to that Essential Question and how your understanding related to the Essential Question grew as a result of the work you did in this course. The relevant biochemistry for preventing COVID-19 is soap. In class, we did a mini-unit called Hand Hygiene: Soap and Hand Sanitizer. In the unit, we learned the many ways that soap reacts with solvents to remove stains and how it kills bacteria. We also learned what soap was made of. A soap molecule consists of a hydrophilic head (attracted to water) and a hydrocarbon made of carbon and hydrogen atoms that’s hydrophobic (doesn’t like water). When soap and water dissolve together they arrange themselves into micelles, which are these spherical clusters of soap molecules with water-attracting heads on the outside, and on the inside, there are water-repelling tails. The COVID virus has a core of genetic material surrounded by a double layer of fats with protein spikes. The outside layer of fats is water-loving and protects the virus.
These micelles that have been formed with water will have water-attracting heads on the outside, and water-repelling tails on the inside that can dissolve fats, micelles become the lethal bundle of cells in water. When they encounter the coronavirus, the water-repelling tails of soap will become attracted to the fatty envelope around the virus and insert themselves into the protective layer. The soap then shatters the virus and goes down the drain. Washing your hands is so effective in slowing the spread of coronavirus. Washing of the hands for just 20 seconds can help protect you and others.
All I knew before learning about soap this semester was that washing your hands can help keep you safe and prevent you from being sick. I had no idea how soap would remove bacteria or stains, and I had no clue that soap needed water or some solvent to activate it. For as long as I can remember I always heard that washing your hands with soap would help keep you safe, but I never knew exactly why that was besides that it would kill the bacteria. When in class this semester I was able to learn about soap and how it can interact differently depending on what it is combined with. Soap will interact differently mostly because it has two sides, one hydrophobic and one hydrophilic. This information I learned about soap has helped me gather an understanding as to how this can help slow the risk of infection and prevent myself and others from getting sick.
b.) How did your knowledge of science grow through your work on the project? My knowledge of science during this project grew specifically on the topic of zoonotic diseases in relation to SARS-Cov-2. I was able to develop and learn many new concepts on diseases and how they are transmitted. I had also learned why these rates of infections are constantly increasing today. I never thought that the reason we are seeing infection rates increase is all because animals and people are coming into closer contact. The main reason they are coming into more contact with people is not exactly because of the animals, but more because of the many things humans are doing. Humans are causing animals to move closer towards us because of many reasons, which is causing this increase in human to nonhuman animal contact. I would’ve thought the main reason for this is because people are interesting and they like to explore, and doing crazy things like eat weird things, but it turns out I was wrong. I mean yeah that might be a reason, but it’s not the main one.
Learning about the number of zoonotic diseases discovered and how many of these new emerging diseases have come from animals is something I would've never known or guessed. When researching for my project I learned that Trump had defunded programs that would research new diseases and strains while developing vaccines to potentially slow infection rates. This caused these programs to not be able to further their research to develop vaccines because there just simply isn't enough money for resources. This research I had found expressed that science and research is elaborate and sophisticated, and it needs funding. Without funding, there is no way to research or develop potential vaccines or cures.
c.) This semester in Chemistry we focused on the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 because of its obvious relevance to our lives. In doing this we studied some ideas that would traditionally be studied in biology class, some that would be found in a physics class and some that would be found in a chemistry class. We also read far more news articles and spent more time looking at scientific papers than is typical for a high school chemistry class. The trade-off is that we did not cover as much chemistry content as you would typically see in a chemistry class and we did not do it in an order that is most advantageous to learning chemistry. Please evaluate this pedagogical decision and state whether you believe the benefits of this method outweigh the downsides or not. I believe the benefits of this method outweigh the downsides to some extent. I would say focusing on COVID-19 is something that does outweigh these downsides. I believe it is important to be able to understand and recognize what is happening in our world today, and being able to communicate effectively on this topic with our parents and people within our community. This time in our lives is something that a lot of us have never experienced or seen before, which is why being educated on this is needed. Having to understand the biochemical and chemical part of COVID-19 is important to really understand how serious this is and how we should all be taking precautions. It has taught me how complex these virus cells are. Being able to learn and understand how these virus cells are transmitted and how they affect you has shown me that this is something we need to learn in school during this time in order to have this deep understanding. I also find this topic very intriguing, especially since this is something new and we are all still learning about it together.
I do however find this method to not fully outweigh the downsides. I believe it is important to be able to do labs and get to learn Chemistry. I know there are times where we incorporate Chemistry into class, but it would be nice if we could incorporate it a little more. I know during this time it is hard to be able to learn Chemistry without labs, but I do think spending a little more time and incorporating it in would be very beneficial.