'Game Over' for Eric Conn Biochemistry Quizzes Winners? No, They’re Going Global

'Game Over' for Eric Conn Biochemistry Quizzes Winners? No, They’re Going Global

When the Ironic Bonds Team and the Gibbs Team won the 12-team competition in the UC Davis Eric Conn Biochemistry Quizzes, it's not “game over.” It's the beginning of a three-game global series. 

“We are planning a global event on Wednesday, March 10, with our UC Davis players challenging UK's Cardiff University,” announced organizer-moderator Walter Leal, UC Davis distinguished professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. UC Davis Chancellor Gary May will deliver the welcome address. 

The three-game virtual event, to begin at 11 a.m., Pacific Time on Zoom, will first pit UC Davis vs. UC Davis, and  then Cardiff vs. Cardiff to determine the players in the championship game. The public is invited to view the event by registering here: https://tinyurl.com/dmnftsuj  

“I am absolutely delighted to provide this opportunity for our students to learn biochemistry, have fun, work as teams, and build international ties,” Leal said. “Yes, remote learning is challenging, but it also creates new opportunities.” 

Students comprising the Ironic Bonds Team are Catherine Rodriguez, Jiaying Liu, Kelly Brandt, Aly Lodigiani, and Efrain Vasquez Santos. The Gibbs Team: Brandon Matsumoto, Tina Luu, Yasi Parsa, Esha Urs, and Kathryn Vallejo.  

The format of the game will be three questions per team, alternating one question for each team. “In the event of a tie,” Leal said, “each team will be asked one question at a time until we break the deadlock.” 

While the teams work on the questions, Dr. Dean Blumberg, an epidemiologist and chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, UC Davis Children's Hospital, will answer questions about vaccines and vaccinations. 

The Eric Conn Biochemistry Quizzes, memorializing a noted plant biochemist known for his research and teaching, drew fundamental biochemistry questions. (See event on YouTube at https://youtu.be/Y9T9ayRXyYE)

“This time,” Leal revealed, “we will focus on a theme of protein structures, emphasizing two proteins of public interest--specifically, hemoglobin, the carrier of oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. As I said in class, this protein makes FedEx envious. It carries oxygen from the lungs to the muscles and other cells, drops the load at the destinations, and picks up carbon dioxide and protons to take back to the lungs. It is a multitasking protein. It is never idle unless a person gets COVID-19.” 

The SARS-CoV-2, the virus-causing COVID-19, needs a human cell to replicate, and they get access to the cell with a protein named spike, Leal explained. “When spike binds to a human receptor called ACE2, the virus gains access to the cell, replicates, the cell is destroyed, and the mucus formed in the lungs make it difficult for oxygen to reach hemoglobin.” 

The UC Davis students have been studying the structures of hemoglobin and spike, Leal related. “Let's check their knowledge.” 

And, in a fun exchange, the UC Davis players will exchange university hoodies with Cardiff.

The Eric Conn Biochemistry Quizzes drew more than 300 attendees, who heard such questions and answers as:

  • "Why do hairdressers use thioglycolic acid for permanent hair treatment?”
    Answer: To break disulfide bridges.
  • "What was Eric Conn's favorite amino acid?”
    Answer: Tyrosine.
  • "Why is the spike protein called a glycoprotein?"
    Answer: Because it is decorated with sugar.
  • "When you get ivy poisoning, where do you expect that the active ingredient (urushiol) will accumulate?"
    Answer: In the cell membrane.
  • "Who was the scientist at the Genome Center that came out with the idea of using papain protease to reduce saliva viscosity?"
    Answer: Lutz Froenicke

 (See recap on https://bit.ly/3stHa6c)