Blending art and science to understand genotype and phenotype with public data and Molecule World™ on the iPad

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Presented at: 
Sequencing Finishing and Analysis in the Future, Santa Fe NM, Jun. 20165 ​Association for Biomolecular Resource Facilities (ABRF), St. Louis, MO Mar. 2016
Abstract: 
Todd M. Smith, Sandra, G. Porter, Ditigal World Biology LLC. Seattle WA.  It is impossible to grasp fundamental concepts in biology without understanding the relationship between sequence, structure, and function. Modern data collection technologies are creating enormous data resources that can be used to help students’ understand these relationships, but currently are underutilized. This is due to the fact that easy-to-use tools that meet teachers’ needs for clear instruction and data visualization are not yet commonplace. Filling the gap between the embarrassment of data riches and practical classroom use requires three things: user-friendly tools, content that demonstrates specific applications with interesting stories, and packages that combine instruction, assessments, and inquiry-based investigations. Digital World Biology is addressing this need with its on-line courses and mobile apps. The on-line courses increase students’ computer literacy while using standard tools like Cn3D, Blast, ORF finder, and multiple databases, in directed and exploratory ways, and help students better understand biology as well gain a better appreciation for the value of the data and the field of bioinformatics. In response to nearly two hundred interviews with K-12 and college teachers and students, we created Molecule World and the Molecule World DNA Binding Lab™ iPad apps to display 3D-data from multiple structure databases (MMDB, PDB, and PubChem) using a novel rendering engine that allows us to uniquely highlight chemical properties, sequence orientation, and a molecule’s biochemically important features. The ability to display and highlight sequences and specific components within molecular complexes enables exploration into the relationships between sequence, structure, and function in new ways. Preliminary data collected in professional development workshops, and many demonstrations, supports the hypothesis the being able to view and simultaneously interact with data improves teaching capabilities and student engagement while making fun works of art! Work supported by NSF grant IIP 1315426
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