Seeing is Believing: Turning Abstract Polymorphisms Into Concrete Structures
DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Seeing is Believing: Turning Abstract Polymorphisms Into Concrete Structures Project Summary If the U.S. is to remain competitive in a global market, continue to interest young people in careers in science and medicine, and help the general public see health benefits from the human genome project, we must improve the state of science education in this country. One approach to this problem is to align our learning activities and teaching methods with our knowledge of cognitive development and brain growth. We propose to use the information from brain research to guide the development of new types of instructional materials. We will use informatics technology, in the form of authentic three-dimensional crystal structures and molecular viewing software to make invisible concepts in genetics less abstract and more concrete. We hypothesize that by using structural informatics tools for inquiry-driven research and making three-dimensional structures visible, we can improve student learning in more abstract areas, such as genetics and pharmacogenomics. Since alcohol use disorders have a strong genetic component and greatly impact the nation's health, we will focus on proteins that metabolize alcohol and their allelic variants. Students will first work with individual protein structures to understand the elements of protein structure and the properties of enzymes. Then they will analyze the changes that occur in the structures of allelic variants, both as individual structures and structures that are aligned with the wild type forms. Student learning will be measured on a small scale during phase I, and a larger scale in the second phase of the project. Project deliverables will consist of a CD-ROM with a lab manual, several pairs of wild-type and polymorphic structures, and animated tutorials for additional guidance. The materials developed through this project will be aligned with the National Science Education Standards and are targeted towards high school students and students in their first years of college. The goal of this project is to produce educational materials that increase the scientific literacy of the general public, specifically high school and college students. Students who use these materials will learn about the biochemistry and genetics of alcohol metabolizing enzymes while working with software and tools developed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the National Library of Medicine.
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