The Quantum Mechanics of Skincare: A Context for the Biochemistry Curriculum

Peter A C McPherson, Lynsey Alphonso, Ben M Johnston

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Designing a relevant and engaging curriculum for biochemistry undergraduates can be challenging for topics which are at the periphery of the subject. We have used the framework of context-based learning as a means of assessing understanding of quantum theory in a group of students in their junior year. Our context, the role of retinol in skincare, provides a basis for the simple application of quantum mechanical principles to a biological context in an adaptation of the polyene in a box concept. As part of the learner journey, they gain experience of practical computational chemistry, which provided an in silico alternative to traditional laboratory work during the SARS-CoV-19 pandemic. Student feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and this approach is now firmly embedded in the undergraduate curriculum.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalBiochemistry and Molecular Biology Education
Early online date8 Mar 2024
Publication statusPublished online - 8 Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.


  • Beer's Law
  • computational chemistry
  • Schrödinger equation
  • UV–vis spectroscopy


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