The Homework is DUE on September 14th

By Chuck Shubert, STAR Program, OEIT

On September 7th about 400 students in MIT’s Introduction to Biology Course 7.012 were given a homework assignment on proteins. The homework problem set asked questions about the structure of a protein. To answer these questions the students used StarBiochem developed at MIT by a collaboration of MIT Biology Professor Graham Walker, MIT Physics Professor John Belcher, and the OEIT Software Tools for Academics and Researchers (STAR) developers.

The homework was due to be turned in on September 14th. The students reported no problems either downloading StarBiochem from the STAR website or using it. Based on the daily usage logs, the students employed the “just in time” delivery paradigm for problem set homework, but you already knew they would.  The image above is what the students see when they look at a protein’s structure.

On September 17th about 200 students in an introductory lab course at Brandeis University taught by Professor Melissa Kosinski-Collins started using StarBiochem. Professor Kosinski-Collins, a structural biologist and former MIT post-doc in Professor Walker’s HHMI Educational Group program, was the domain expert during the development of StarBiochem. The usage logs suggest that the students in the lab course were using StarBiochem with their lab partners over a two-week period in September.

On September 24th Professor Kosinski-Collins sent the following email to her StarBiochem collaborators:

Hi guys,

I just wanted to let you know that we used StarBiochem for the first time in a real laboratory setting last week for 200 students here at Brandeis and it was a HUGE success!

I had the students go through a series of directed activities like we have done on problem sets and such, but then I gave them a different protein to look at in 3D. They had to think about the protein's 3D structure and determine which amino acid(s) they thought were the most important to structure and stability. They voted on as sections on their top choice and now for the rest of the semester, each section will actually make and purify their mutated protein. It was great to watch them use the program and try to look at the different residues and where they were located in 3D.

Anyway, I thought you guys would be interested in how successful this was and how we were able to use the program in an entirely different way in lab!