Walker's education research group meetings, which are modeled on research lab meetings, included colleagues from MIT's Office of Educational Innovation and Technology, specifically programmers that help bring research into the classroom. The group reviewed various programs that display protein structure, but the software was all either too simplistic or too hard for students to use. "They finally said, 'Why don't we just build a new protein viewer from the ground up?'" Their resulting creation, StarBiochem, is a computer program that is now free online and is used all over the world to teach about protein folding.
Software like this lets teachers move beyond just lectures to get undergraduates more closely involved with their material, which educators call "active learning." The collaboration led to related genetics software, StarGenetics, which students can use to carry out simple genetic experiments without having to anesthetize a single fruit fly.
Walker's HHMI professorship was renewed last year and he looks forward to having his education research group spin off in new and interesting directions. They will experiment with new ways to educate students in the biological sciencesnew ways to get across some of the other basic biology concepts, for example. "I'm kind of hoping some idea will come up that will catch us all off guard" the way the protein folding software did, he says.
Walker's talk will be held at 8:30 a.m. February 21 at the Washington Convention Center East Salon.
Other talks by HHMI scientists at the AAAS meeting include:
|Contact: Andrea Widener|
Howard Hughes Medical Institute