A Message from Dr. Sixue Chen
Welcome to our MolecularDetective.org website!
Genomics, proteomics, metabolomics and bioinformatics are the new pillars of biological sciences in this century. Conceptual and technical advancements have created numerous opportunities to advance biological research. However, educational activities for young students have been lacking. ‘Omics’ sciences are not widely taught, primarily because science teachers are unfamiliar with this rapidly evolving field of science. We aim to integrate our research and training of high school teachers and students in the interdisciplinary ‘omics’ sciences.
To begin preparing the next generation of students for the imminent systems biology era, we believe it is important to raise awareness of cutting-edge research and technology at an early stage. In close collaboration with the University of Florida’s Center for Pre-collegiate Education and Training (CPET) (http://www.cpet.ufl.edu), my lab has been active in hosting high school students and teachers in our research and holding ‘omics’ workshop and seminars.
One of our high school students, Gordon Wilson, won First Place in the 2008 Florida Junior Academy of Sciences competition and Third Place at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
We will continue our efforts to inspire many teachers and young students in modern biological sciences and prepare the next generation of high-quality scientists and citizens.
Our imminent goal is to create ‘omics’ training modules for high school teachers. The modules will be inquiry-driven and activity-based and tailored to science classrooms. Our initial modules will include: quick and easy protein extraction, gel electrophoresis and protein visualization, excision of proteins from gels, and submission of protein samples. We will schedule visits both to our lab and on-site for mass spectrophotometer (MS) data acquisition, followed by analysis and interpretation of the data using internet tools (e.g., http://www.moleculardetective.org).
Together with Dr. Mary Jo Koroly, Director of the CPET, we will develop a long-term plan to assist teachers with hands-on instructions in ‘omics’ sciences. We aim to secure federal funding in the near future to better empower our teachers with ‘omics’ teaching materials and equipment.
Providing resources and tutorials in simple terms and appealing formats, and publishing online, are the best way to attract the interest of young students and thereby exert a broader educational influence.
Online tutorial and training resources for modern protein and metabolite research are scarce. They are generally designed for scientists and specialists, rather than for high school students and the public. For teachers and students, we were inspired to develop an interactive ‘omics’ website as a teaching tool (with tutorials, exercises and questions) and a data portal (for data sharing and analysis).
I plan to create a library of online tutorials and exercises that will illustrate the fundamentals of ‘omics’ research. These will include diagrammatic models, analogous examples and cartoons to help with the visual presentation that will appeal to young students. This website will be under continuous improvement.
We welcome constructive feedback and suggestions. Your participation and help will facilitate further development of outreach activities in ‘omics’ sciences for high schools and the public. I look forward to interacting and working with you towards our goals of bringing modern biological sciences to high schools and the general public. Thank you for visiting our website.
Sixue Chen, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology, University of Florida