Fall 2020 - MBB 423 D100

Protein Structure and Function (3)

Class Number: 3068

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 9 – Dec 8, 2020: Tue, Thu, 8:30–10:20 a.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    MBB 323 or MBB 324, with a minimum grade of C.



Mechanistic principles for how protein molecules achieve diverse functions such as chemical catalysis and conformational switching. Students will learn to critique hypotheses about structural mechanisms, and to interpret the primary literature reporting on structural evidence from X-ray diffraction and spectroscopy.


Students will learn to assess primary literature reports of experimental data on structure and function, and to formulate hypotheses and apply structural reasoning in investigations of molecular mechanism.
Students will use these skills to give an oral presentation, and write assignments summarizing examples of research literature on selected proteins.

Structural basis of protein function: 

  • Stability and flexibility     
  • Enzymatic catalysis    
  • Integrating multiple functions
Obtaining and assessing structural data:
  • X-ray crystallography     
  • Electron microscopy     
  • Spectroscopic techniques


  • Timed Short 10-minute Quizzes (multiple) 10%
  • Timed 50-minute Exam 25%
  • Brief (1 page) written assignment 5%
  • Short major assignment 25%
  • Long major assignment 35%
  • Grading Structure and format of written assignments is subject to change depending on enrolment



  • For approx. 9 weeks, there will be a blended schedule as follows:   Tues. 8:30-9:20 - live Webinar session which will be recorded; attendance is OPTIONAL Tues. 9:30-10:20 - Discussion session NOT recorded; attendance is OPTIONAL.  
  • Thurs. 8:30-9:30 - REQUIRED synchronous session: reserved for timed for-credit assessments (Not all of the time will be used every week) Thurs. 9:30-10:20 - Discussion session NOT recorded; attendance is OPTIONAL. 
  • Additional pre-recorded lecture videos will also be provided.   For approx. 3 weeks (not consecutive), there will be NO required synchronous attendance and no recorded Webinars. Students will be working at home to complete independent assignments.
Assessments: blended: both synchronous and asynchronous
Final Exam:  No final exam



  • Access to internet is required, but video feed is NOT required.
  • Specialized software: Zoom (SFU licence, with local recording capability) is required. PyMOL software will be required. This is available for free download for students under educational licence (Schrodinger), for either Mac or Windows OS.  


This course is not textbook-based. Course readings and research journal articles will be available in electronic Library Reserves or Canvas.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

  • For help with writing, learning and study strategies please contact the Student Learning Commons at
  • Students requiring accommodations as a result of a disability, must contact the Centre for Accessible Learning (778-782-3112 or e-mail:  caladmin@sfu.ca)

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).