An Overview of Structures and Processes
One of the high emphasis topics for the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ Science subject test is the structures and processes of living things. Falling under the Life Sciences portion of the test’s content, this topic is concerned with everything from molecules to organisms. Though broad, there are some important things you need to know to better understand structures and processes in general.
You might already know a little about the structure of living organisms if you read the earlier Science study tips post on cell structure. Remember that all living things are composed of cells, and all cells arise from preexisting cells through division. According to scientists at FEI, “basic life processes start in the cell.” Cellular life is essential to our understanding of Life Science in general, and to our understanding of molecules and organisms specifically because the metabolic processes associated with life occur within cells.
In this way, cells are important to our understanding of structure. Structural biologists examine the sub-cellular components of cells, including organelles and macromolecular structures. However, they also provide us with insight into how things are processed. For example, cellular biologists work to understand how cells respond to disease or genetic variations. These processes are unusual, and the ways cells react are important to biologists’ understanding of cellular life and the development of cures.
Using your knowledge of cells, you can better understand the larger processes that organisms undergo. For example, the experts at the science and math activities organization How to Smile write, “a central feature of life is that organisms grow, reproduce, and die.”
The experts point to some characteristics that all organisms have in common. In terms of structures, all organisms have anatomy and morphology. Anatomy typically refers to the internal organs and systems of an organism. In human beings for example, this includes our organs, bones, circulatory system, and nervous system. Morphology, in contrast, focuses on the relationships in structures within a particular organism. The structures studied in morphology are both external and internal. For a better understanding of anatomy and morphology, look at this examination of “Plant Anatomy and Morphology” from Texas A & M University.
Organisms also have functions and processes in common, including molecular-scale processes to organism-level physiology. A physiologist might study a process such as how “molecules interact within a network of proteins to serve the needs of the cell, tissue, organ, organ-system, and ultimately the organism.”
Lastly, the experts note that all organisms have characteristic behaviors, including neurobiology and even psychology for some animal species. Though separate from structures and processes in some ways, their behavioral characteristics can be the outward expression of internal processes. For example, many psychologists believe that some types of depressions are the result of imbalanced chemicals. This imbalance is a disrupted process, and the state of depression that is expressed through human behavior is the result.