5.07SC | Fall 2013 | Undergraduate

Biological Chemistry I

Instructor Insights

Course Overview

This page focuses on the course 5.07 Biological Chemistry I as it is typically taught at MIT. John Essigmann, Professor of Chemistry & Biological Engineering and Director of the MIT Center for Environmental Health, and JoAnne Stubbe, Professor of Chemistry & Biology and National Medal of Science recipient, share their insights about the pedagogy behind this core learning experience for MIT chemistry majors.

Taught through lectures and recitations, this course examines the chemical and physical properties of the cell and its building blocks, with special emphasis on the structures of proteins and principles of catalysis, as well as the chemistry of organic/inorganic cofactors required for chemical transformations within the cell. Topics encompass the basic principles of metabolism and regulation in pathways, including glycolysis, gluconeogenesis, fatty acid synthesis/degradation, pentose phosphate pathway, Krebs cycle and oxidative phosphorylation.

Course Outcomes

Course Goals for Students

  • Gain an introduction to all the chemical players of life, their structures and chemistry and, consequently, their function.
  • Learn about the central pathways of metabolism.
  • Understand how pathways are regulated and integrated under different environmental conditions.

Meet the Educators

"My interests have been in chemicals from the environment … and how they interact with biological systems."
—John Essigmann

In the following videos, Professors JoAnne Stubbe and John Essigmann describe how they became interested in biological chemistry and share what they focus on in their research.

JoAnne Stubbe

 John Essigmann

Instructor Interview

"The morphological unit of life is the cell, whether you’re a flea or you’re an elephant."
—JoAnne Stubbe

Professors JoAnne Stubbe and John Essigmann sat down with George Zaidan, a former 5.07 Biological Chemistry student, to discuss how they teach the course. The following videos capture excerpts of their conversations.  

JoAnne Stubbe

John Essigmann

Curriculum Information


5.12 Organic Chemistry I

Requirements Satisfied


Every fall semester


The students’ grades were based on the following activities:

  • 8% Weekly problem sets
  • 8% Weekly quizzes
  • 50% Closed book, closed note exams (3)
  • 34% Final exam

Student Information


70 students

Breakdown by Year

Mostly sophomores and juniors

Breakdown by Major

Nearly all of the roughly 20 chemistry majors per year take 5.07. The largest constituency, however, is chemical engineering students.

Typical Student Background

Students who take 5.07 tend to have strong backgrounds in, and enjoy, organic chemistry. Most of the students want to go into either medicine or graduate school in advance of a career in either the drug industry or academics.

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students are expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:


  • Meet 3 times per week for 1 hour per session.
  • During lectures, the instructor introduces core concepts, often illustrating the concepts with examples.


  • Meet 2 times per week for 1 hour per session.
  • In recitations, an instructor or teaching assistant elaborates on concepts presented in lecture, working through new examples with student participation, and answers questions.

Out of Class

  • Outside of class, students prepare for exams and complete readings and problem sets.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2013
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Videos
Other Video
Problem Sets with Solutions
Lecture Notes
Instructor Insights