Cells: Molecules and Mechanisms
Eric V. Wong
Copyright Year: 2009
ISBN 13: 9780985226114
Publisher: Axolotl Academic Publishing Co
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This text serves as a broad overview of many cellular concepts, and follows a traditional format. Some of the chapters go into more detail than others - such as the chapters on Chemical Concepts and Metabolism. The author states that this is a... read more
This text serves as a broad overview of many cellular concepts, and follows a traditional format. Some of the chapters go into more detail than others - such as the chapters on Chemical Concepts and Metabolism. The author states that this is a text that is designed as a “teaching text” - one that includes “what a student really needs to take away from this class within the time constraints of a semester.” He thus removed the historical context and major experiments, which is agreeable, especially in terms of trying to minimize and focus on the information students truly need. Many of the classic Cell and Molecular Biology textbooks are overloaded with information and quite dense for today’s students to read and learn from. This one was well-written, covers the majority of the needed topics, and was even amusing and entertaining to read in many chapters. The book includes a table of contents, but no glossary or index, although the .pdf format allowed for searching within the book for specific terms as needed, which is probably easier for online texts than a glossary anyway. Further, the text contains interesting and useful information related to medical issues, clearly delineates between basic and advanced information (although some chapters I felt the “basic” information should have been considered advanced and vice versa), and identifies and clarifies some common misconceptions by students. I did feel the text could greatly benefit from some ancillary or support materials - including learning objectives, chapter summaries, as well as review or inquiry-based questions and examples for students.
The author does an excellent job of distilling the most important material in a cell and molecular biology text, while also including additional information and references that can be looked up for further information. While some more current concepts and research were missing (see below), most of what was in the book was accurate, there were very few errors, and no identifiable bias in the writing.
Since this text was written in 2009, some of the current information and scientific research that has taken place since it was written, and those things are therefore not included in the text (such as CRISPR). However, most of the material is of a basic nature and is not obsolete. Some of the information given for medical interest is outdated and needs to be updated using current scientific research, although many are still interesting and relevant to students’ lives - such as information about common diseases and dietary supplements. The .pdf format is not easy to update and prevents the addition of current information or features. For example, both my students and myself prefer interactive features and links to videos and/or animations in online texts; and for this subject in particular, these features can help students learn many of the abstract concepts that are prevalent and difficult to visualize in a Cell and Molecular Biology course. References also could be updated, as many are over 10 years old and some are now nearly 20 years old.
The text is overall well-written and very easy to read - even amusing in parts, although some of the sections and subsections are quite long. There is adequate context for the terminology used, and enough background provided in the majority of the text to understand the concepts being presented. Some chapters went more into depth on some topics in the “basic” information provided than I thought was necessary, and others not quite enough, but in general, everything was very clear and accessible.
As a whole, the text is consistently written and presented. Some pictures are integrated into the basic material of the text (left side column) while others are on the right side column with the advanced material, but were referred to throughout the basic content, which I found to be a bit confusing. I also enjoyed the small introduction/overviews provided for some of the chapters (i.e. Ch. 10) and wished all of them had these (i.e. Ch. 9).
The chapters in the text relate to each other, but are not dependent on nor refer to each other very often, and thus could be used independently or covered in a different order than as it is presented in the table of contents. However, since there are no chapter numbers in the table of contents and the within-chapter subsections do not have their own numbers to refer students to, it is difficult to ask students to read only certain sections of a particular chapter. The table of contents does provide page numbers for subsections, which helps, but is different from traditional convention and makes it more difficult to assign to students or add to a syllabus for sections to read as everything needs to be referred to by the page number where the section begins and ends or the subsection heading.
The organization follows the traditional biological hierarchy and Cell and Molecular Biology textbook, beginning with simpler concepts such as organelles and chemistry before moving into more complex topics. I found the format, with the left side column text as the basic content and right side column as more advanced content to be a bit hard to get used to, although I do appreciate the division of information (basic vs. advanced) and found the color-coding to be helpful. I did find the quick review of the “Anatomy of a Cell” at the beginning to be a helpful overview. Most of my students have just taken our year-long Introductory Biology course, so I felt this was a great way to review and segway into the new and more in-depth material of a cell and molecular biology textbook, as well as provide an overview of the text itself, although some students do need a more in-depth version of this chapter. I would prefer chapter numbers to be included in the table of contents and on the title page for each chapter so that these could easily be used as a reference for students (it is only listed on the bottom of the pages). The pictures in the text were very small but high-quality and very nicely illustrated, so when needed, could be zoomed in on. Bolding of important terms would also be very helpful for students and instructors. I also enjoyed the last chapter on “Advanced Topics” - which built upon previous material but brought it into more complex subjects that students find interesting and relevant - such as cancer.
Unfortunately, because of the size of the figures, and inability to click on a link to make it larger, I found this to be very distracting and difficult to read online. Even when zooming in, if I accidentally clicked outside the text, it would take me back to the beginning of the book. Additionally, several of the links don’t work and need to be updated - which may be another issue of when it was published.
This text has very few grammatical errors, and was edited very well. I noted only one error referring to “Chapter XX,” as well as a few italicization errors for scientific names of organisms.
Overall the text is culturally sensitive and not offensive, although not necessarily culturally inclusive.
While I enjoyed reading and exploring this text, I wouldn’t use this in my class as a primary textbook, primarily due to the small figures, lack of interactive and updated links, and inability to update it, but I found many of the descriptions, figures, tidbits of medical information and other interesting anecdotes to be useful and will incorporate them into my course. Overall, it’s a great reference book for someone beginning to design a new Cell and Molecular Biology course and could be used as a framework to develop a more updated version. I would love to see a second version of this text that also included interactive features, questions for students, and other ancillary support materials.
The book is a comprehensive coverage of the topic of Cell Biology. There was a Table of Contents but no Index or glossary. The problems with this text arise because the text was written in 2009 and is out of date (see more on issues stemming from... read more
The book is a comprehensive coverage of the topic of Cell Biology. There was a Table of Contents but no Index or glossary. The problems with this text arise because the text was written in 2009 and is out of date (see more on issues stemming from this below)
The text is accurate but as stated above as it is now out-of-date and thus much of the information is incomplete and in some places inaccurate because the discipline has changed and/or been corrected.
The content is out-of-date being written in 2009. Ten years is a long time in a scientific discipline and especially in one in which many discoveries including technological advances, have been made in the last decade. The text is a pdf and it is not possible to add updates. The figures while appropriate for 2009 are all now too simplistic and/or missing features and thus are not easily updated.
The text is generally well-written. But again the terminology has changed, new terms created, etc. such that the writing is affected.
The text is divided into sections but the style is by todays standard too 'wordy and descriptive' with sections too long. Figures and diagrams help and are included to explain the text but more diagrams are needed and modern diagrams/illustrations such as 3D conformational images of molecules and proteins, and visualization and conceptization techniques such as animations, simulations, etc., could be used.
The topics are presented in a logical clear fashion.
The interface is ok but again out of date in that there are no interactive features,
I found no grammatical errors
The text was not culturally insensitive or offensive.
The text largely suffers from its age and being out of date with information as well as modern pedadogical methods and instructional techniques. Namely, the deficiences include: lack of interactive features, a pdf format that is non-scrollable, making skipping through the text onerous, diagrams are non-interactive and/or static as opposed to use of animations or other types of modern techniques that are useful to explain mechanistic processes, etc.. There are also few microscopy images of cells included. Microscopy, such as fluorescence microscopy and time-lapse microscopy are areas that have undergone tremendous advances in the past decade with microscopy a central tenet in the field of Cell Biology, essential both to the study and understanding how cells function and work. This is a glaring deficiency of this online text and makes it unacceptable fora modern Cell Biology course. Finally, other now, standard pedodogical features included in textbooks are missing. For example there are no Learning Objectives at the beginning of each chapter, there are no questions at the end of the chapters, there are no online resources available for the text, and there are on files with powerpoint of text figures.
This book covers a reasonable breadth of material for the subject. It does not contain an index or glossary and the table of contents is a little broad to serve as the sole means of guiding the reader through the text. read more
This book covers a reasonable breadth of material for the subject. It does not contain an index or glossary and the table of contents is a little broad to serve as the sole means of guiding the reader through the text.
The material in this book is well-summarized. It can often be difficult to accurately distill complex topics in brief and this text does an excellent job of summarizing without compromising accuracy. I particularly appreciate the references to literature that highlight the experimental findings that contributed to specific concepts.
As with any science text, there is some limit to its longevity. References to literature will help with this, as students can look at what has been done on a particular topic since that manuscript was published. I also believe that because this text focuses on cellular structure and organization in more of a survey manner that this material will not become obsolete as fast compared to other texts.
I struggled with the clarity of this text. While the content is pitched at a very accessible level, the text itself struggles from a very heavy and opaque formatting template. Information is provided in large, dense paragraphs without subheadings and the figures are sometimes sparse and difficult to interpret. It should be noted that this is not true for all the chapters. For example, the chapters on ECM and adhesion are beautiful and flow in a much more clear manner than some of the early chapters, like those introducing some of the fundamental chemistry of the cell.
The use of terminology is largely consistent throughout the book and pitched to a freshman level audience. There are occasions where the language contains a slight increase in jargon but this does not detract from the chapters. The use of different colored fonts for emphasis was a nice approach and used consistently throughout, but the red text is often distracting and I would have preferred something less harsh.
Similar to my comments regarding the clarity of the texts, some chapters are better than others but the overall lack of suborganization is one of the weaker aspects of this text. The chapters are not very long so I don't see much reason or opportunity to break them into smaller parts.
The text follows a logical order in terms of starting from small subunits and building to larger cellular contexts. This is one of the big strengths of this text.
While the interface itself is fine, I found that many of the figures took a while to render and were less complete than I would have liked. An understanding of cell biology is highly visual and more, simplified figures would have greatly enhanced the experience. I did find some of the text pullouts that divided the pages into two columns, one of which was nearly empty, to be very distracting.
This was well edited with almost no errors.
This is a very factually based science text and I did not see any culturally-relevant material.
Overall I like this book but I think it would be more appropriate for a 100-level, nonmajor course. I don't think that the depth or organization would be effective for sophomores or biology majors. I also really missed having some kind of end-of-chapter summary, reading questions, or other learning support materials here.
The book starts with a helpful and detailed introduction to the chemistry of macromolecules and these topics were explained in a clear manner that biology students would relate well to. However, the biological concepts are not explained in simple... read more
The book starts with a helpful and detailed introduction to the chemistry of macromolecules and these topics were explained in a clear manner that biology students would relate well to. However, the biological concepts are not explained in simple enough terms or with appropriate biological examples to help the students understand these complicated topics. Including more biological examples of these concepts (in a disease, medicine, organisms, etc) would help the students understand the application and importance of this information. In addition, while the book has a Table of Contents at the beginning of the book, the book does not have an index to help locate particular terms or topics. Furthermore, a more detailed overview of the functions and structures of organelles would be appropriate for an introductory cellular and molecular biology textbook.
The content is accurate, error-free, and unbiased.
The coverage of basic cell and molecular biology is standard and thus will remain relevant. The text should be easy to update if needed. However, since this book does not cover experimental techniques, it lacks coverage of some of the more important discoveries and scientific applications of technology in the past ten years including lncRNA, CRISPR/cas9, epigenetics, and genomics. Thus while the content does cover basic concepts, it is not comprehensive of current topics.
The writing style is clear and provides some interesting comments and analogies. However, the book uses complicated terms and concepts and does not appropriately define the terms used. Often, this term is defined somewhere in the paragraph but the exact definition/meaning is not clearly indicated. The lack of clear definitions would likely confuse and frustrate my students. Having word definitions in the right column of the text would be very helpful. In addition, the main points/topics covered by the chapter is also unclear. The book lacks detailed subheadings that will help guide students through the chapter. Also, it would be helpful to have a small glossary or guide at the beginning of the chapter to indicate the main points of the chapter, and to include a summary of main points at the end of the chapter. Having more detailed sub-headings, definitions, and summary points would greatly help identify and clarify the important information of the chapter.
The book is consistent in its organization, terminology, information flow, and content of figures. The book also consistently color-codes information in blue (more advanced information) versus red (medically relevant information) to highlight particular points in the text.
The chapters are modular and while the chapters relate to each other, they are independent units and do not depend on each other. Therefore, the information could be easily be covered in a different order than what occurs in the textbook. However, there are few to no subheadings within the chapters and this makes it difficult for the reader to organize the information into smaller sub-sections and also makes it very difficult for the faculty member to assign sub-sections of a chapter. Thus while the different chapters are modular, the information within the chapter is not modular.
The organization is presented in a logical fashion starting from chemistry of macromolecules working up to organelles and protein functions (cytoskeleton, signal transduction, etc). This is similar to many other textbooks. However, the detailed chapters on bioenergetics and metabolism are very detailed and seem to be too detailed to have early in the book. This complicated material may be better if it was placed later in the text book after more basic molecular biology topics (translation etc) were covered.
The book is easy to navigate. Most text is in the left column and advanced topics or comments in the right column. This organization is logical and carries throughout the book. The figures are very small, however they have high resolution and are not distorted when magnified. However, having to constantly zoom in and out to see the figures was not easy and I fear that students may not do this when reading the book. The shapes/images used in the text were consistent from chapter to chapter making the carry over of information good. The figures are detailed enough to portray complicated information but not so complex that students wouldn't understand them.
There are a few grammatical errors, but overall the text is clear and the grammar, spelling, and word choice are appropriate.
This book is about cell structure and function and does not contain any cultural context.
The book has no appendix to help locate where specific molecules or topics are covered, but one can use a search of the pdf document to do this. The chemistry aspect of the material is covered in more depth than the biological aspects. I found the... read more
The book has no appendix to help locate where specific molecules or topics are covered, but one can use a search of the pdf document to do this. The chemistry aspect of the material is covered in more depth than the biological aspects. I found the explanations and analogies for the chemistry of events very useful, but more biological phenomena, such as evolution, are not used as a unifying message.
Within my knowledge base, from training in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology, and from teaching courses in these areas from other textbooks, the content is accurate. The content is not fleshed out in a way that would make it easilty accessible to students in my sophomore-level cell biology class.
The content is relevant, and much is material that is the foundation of how we understand cells to work, so it will not become obsolete. The content is limited in scope.
The book provides many straight-forward explanations of terms or processes that I found quite useful, and often amusing. I liked many of the analogies used, and will likely incorporate them into my class. However, there is an assumption of knowledge that my sophomore-level students do not have, so that the text would have to be used in conjunction with other resources. I found that definitions of terms are not deliberately spelled out in the text, but instead are assumed to come from prior knowledge or are to be gained by analysis of context. For my students, this is inadequate for their understanding of the content.
The book is consistent in terminology and framework. For use in my course, it would have to have more biological context.
The book is not long, and chapters are not overly dependent on other parts of the book. However, for my cell biology course, I would have to include material from elsewhere to cover the topics in the depth that I do from my current textbook.
The structure is much like that of other texts in the topic, building from water and the chemistry of biological molecules to progressively more complex systems in the cell.
The book is very simple, so there are few problems. The figures are small, but most can be viewed at 800% size in the pdf file with good resolution. I found many of the figures to be superior to those in my current textbook, which has very simplified figures that are too abstract for the students to understand. In this text, I appreciate that lipid bilayers in all figures are represented as with a collection of phospholipids, rather than a wide line. I learned from experience that overly simplified figures are not understood.
I found few grammatical errors in the book text, including incorrect figure references and some wording that was misleading.
There is no cultural context, since all is at the level of cells and molecules.
I will not use this book as the sole text for my cell biology course because it does not cover the breadth of the material required, but there are good figures and simple, well-written explanations that I think will be appreciated by my students.
Table of Contents
- Anatomy of a Cell
- Basic Cell Chemistry
- Metabolism 1
- Metabolism 2
- Gene Regulation
- ER, Golgi, and Vesicles
- ECM and Adhesion
- Cell Communication
- Cell Cycle
- Advanced Topics
About the Book
Yet another cell and molecular biology book? At the very least, you would think that if I was going to write a textbook, I should write one in an area that really needs one instead of a subject that already has multiple excellent and definitive books. So, why write this book, then? First, it's a course that I have enjoyed teaching for many years, so I am very familiar with what a student really needs to take away from this class within the time constraints of a semester. Second, because it is a course that many students take, there is a greater opportunity to make an impact on more students' pocketbooks than if I were to start off writing a book for a highly specialized upper- level course. And finally, it was fun to research and write, and can be revised easily for inclusion as part of our next textbook, High School Biology.
About the Contributors
Professor Eric V. Wong