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Prof David Allen Bender
Department of Structural and Molecular Biology, UCL
Gower St
  • Emeritus Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry
  • Structural & Molecular Biology
  • Div of Biosciences
  • Faculty of Life Sciences
Research Summary
My research career began with studies of aromatic amino acid decarboxylase, an enzyme involved in the synthesis of catecholamine and indoleamine neurotransmitters. This led on to a more specific interest in tryptophan metabolism, initially in relation to psychiatric disease, and later in relation to the tryptophan / niacin deficiency disease pellagra, and disturbances of tryptophan (and other amino acid) metabolism in schistosomiasis.

My interest in tryptophan metabolism led to an interest in vitamin B6, because of the central role of vitamin B6 in tryptophan metabolism, and then to the interactions between vitamin B6 and oestrogens, initially because of the effects of oestrogens on tryptophan metabolism. This led to the elucidation of the role of vitamin B6 in terminating the actions of steroid hormones.
Teaching Summary
Development of on-line learning resources for medical (and science) students

I have written and developed a suite of computer programs that are simulations of laboratory exercises in biochemistry; the most recent versions are presented as a Virtual Laboratory, used in the Phase 1 MBBS course, with extensive theory screens. They are available at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucbcdab/simulations.htm. Versions of these programs are used in some 30 universities around the world, and are included in the CD that accompanies the 4th edition of Introduction to Nutrition and Metabolism. These programs have been adopted by InterNICHE, the International Network for Humane Education, for use in their international lending library of alternatives to animal experiments in education.

I have written and developed a computer program that permits nutrient analysis of foods and diets, to accompany Food Tables and Labelling. It is used by some 3000 schools and colleges in Britain, and was adopted in 2003 for use across Northern Ireland in the Classroom 2000 package used in all schools and colleges in the province. The program has received a very favourable evaluation by Schoolzone for the Dept of Education Curriculum OnLine. An expanded version of this program, with a larger database of foods and nutrients, is included in the CD that accompanies the 4th edition of Introduction to Nutrition and Metabolism.

I have written and developed a computer program, Testme, that permits students to answer true/false multiple choice questions and see explanations of why they were correct or not. The program presents students with a random selection of questions, each of which is a statement to be marked true or false, from a bank associated with each chapter in the 4th edition of Introduction to Nutrition and Metabolism. The total question bank contains some 1600 questions. The program is flexible, and will permit anyone to write additional questions, or edit the question bank, using only word-processing software. For each question the student has not only to decide whether the statement is true or false, but assess his / her confidence in the answer. The level of confidence affects the positive mark for being correct and the negative mark for being incorrect.

I have written a number of programs that permit students to practice common calculations, seeing how the calculations are performed as they progress through the exercise. Each time the calculation is performed different rndom values are generated, so that students learn the rocess and not "the answer".

I am currently developing a series of on-line tutorial exercises for students to learn metabolism by interp[reting clinical and laboratory data. At each point studens are prompted to draw conclusions, or suggest how ideas could be tested, then after thinking (or ideally discussing in a smal gorup) they can click to see the answer.
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