WHY BIOINFORMATICS AT SCHOOL?

New and enhanced methods for DNA research continue to flow into the scientific community. Software that processes this data can be used to find links between genes, proteins and diseases or even predicting functions and structures of proteins. All the data is freely available online, as is most of the software. We already wrote an article for NVOX that explains the possibilities for students to work with these methods and a motivation why we think this is important. The article can be downloaded here.

These are our main points from the article:

 

Databases and relevant software can help to overcome three important challenges in biology education:

 

Understanding abstract concepts such as gene, genome and evolutionary relationships

Students learn that the 3D structure proteins is important for their function. By using 3D modelling software, students can study protein structures and also understand the underlying mechanism. As an example, when studing the 3D structure of lactose, a protein involved in digestion, students can identify the part of the protein where lactose binds to its substrate. Databases can offer valuable insight in the way genes are located on the genome.

Linking DNA, protein and characteristics

Textbooks often explain hereditary characteristics by pointing at phenomena such as eyecolour. For students, this makes it harder to understand that all other characteristics, also the ones that you cannot directly see, are mainly the result of the composition of the DNA. One way to set this straight is referring to corresponding genes when a protein or a family of proteins is discussed in class or in the textbook. The NVOX-article contains an overview of proteins that are mentioned regularly in most textbooks.

Getting acquainted with modern research methods

Today, most scientific research on biology incorporates bioinformatics at some stage. Because of this increase, more bioinformatics courses arise at universities and there even is a complete bioinformatics study at the HAN. When discussing scientific research, one has to know something about bioinformatics.