E. Díez, J. García, M.D. Romero, A. Rodríguez

Universidad Complutense (SPAIN)
As an interface between chemistry, chemical engineering, biology and medicine, biochemists seek to understand the molecular underpinnings of living organisms and of disease. Biochemistry aims to comprehend every aspect of the structure and function of living things: a biochemical approach forms the basis to understand the function and properties of molecules, cells, tissues and whole organisms, under normal and abnormal conditions and in response to their changing environment. For this reason, biochemistry will have a major impact on many of the problems that the human being has to face today, particularly in the areas of medicine, agriculture and environmental issues. The main objective of the Biochemical degree is preparing professionals for the pharmaceutical industry and future researchers and teachers. To achieve these goals, it is required that students acquire scientific knowledge and that they are trained to use it well, to think, and to assume responsibilities in the world of medicines. As a consequence, teaching and learning methods are changing considerably and it will continue being in response to social and technological advances.

Despite the increasing use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), conventional lectures with practical exercises will always exist. But also, practical work in the laboratory (chemical analysis, microbiology, and so on) and in pilot plants (unit operations in chemical engineering, drugs production) is usually required and demanded by the pharmaceutical industry to improve practical knowledge of the future graduates. Besides other educational tools that are becoming important are the Problem Based Learning (PBL) approach and the development of projects prepared by groups of students. However, this kind of practical teaching is only partially employed and industry and university do not collaborate as much as it should be. Close connections between industry and university people are essential for the implementation of modern training programs.

The actions presented in this article are in the context of a global curriculum of the biochemistry degree in the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain. It presents an analysis of a teaching innovation project, with the students of third course of biochemistry conducted during the academic year 2011-12 in the asignature Biochemistry Engineering Fundamentals. This activity included visits to several pharmaceutical industries from Madrid (Spain). University professors, former students and professionals from different pharmaceutical industries have worked together to help our current students to improve several competences and skills such as team work, analysis of real industrial situations, and communication skills. Also, this project include a new form of teaching of the unit operations in biochemical engineering, such as filtration, sedimentation, centrifugation, rheology, heat transfer, etc. We would like to present how interactive process visualization software can be used as a common platform to integrate modular teaching. We hypothesize that such an integrated approach will help students to better appreciate the the knowledge acquired in different modules, which at the same time, will also stimulate their interest in these modules. The main objective of this experience is to facilitate the students to make the bridge from the theoretical concepts to their application to the pharmaceutical industry reality.