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Biology for Engineers CD
Biological Information Handling: Essentials for Engineers, a CD developed by a team at the University of Washington led by HHMI Professor Mary Lidstrom, is a self-paced, interactive tutorial to teach biology fundamentals to engineers. The CD lets engineering students understand the biological processes involved in information transfer of the cell (replication, transcription, and translation). By comparing cells to tiny computers, and showing how they store, retrieve, and copy information so that it can be passed on to new cells, the CD provides an engineering perspective demonstrating the fundamentals of information transfer in biology to engineers. Animations show DNA replicating, RNA being produced, and proteins being assembled by the ribosome. The CD’s estimated completion time is 1-3 hours. Additional materials include scripts and study guides to replication, transcription, and translation, a final printable test, and a final interactive test called “Build a polypeptide chain.” Links to supplemental information resources that enhance that CD are also available on the site. The CD can be viewed online or downloaded. It can be used as a curricular supplement to introductory biology courses that contain engineering and computer science students or to introductory engineering courses that involve biological processes. The CD received the 2005 Premier Award for Excellence in Engineering Education Courseware from the National Engineering Education Delivery System.
HHMI Professor: Mary Lidstrom, Ph.D.
Award Years: 2002
Summary: Mary Lidstrom’s research group is focused on molecular manipulation of methylotrophic bacteria, microorganisms capable of metabolizing bioorganic waste products such as methane and methanol. The long-term goal of her research is to develop environmentally sound and economically viable alternatives to current chemical production and cleanup strategies. Dr. Lidstrom brings her bioengineering expertise to bear in the HHMI-funded educational initiatives she has established at her home institution. The objective of her work is to infuse life sciences education into the engineering curriculum at the University of Washington. Hands-on learning and focus on current research problems are the basis of her educational design, and assessment has been built into each initiative to monitor the program’s success. Her efforts have led to the development of several new curricular enhancements:
- An inquiry-based life sciences courses within existing engineering majors to attract a diverse group of outstanding engineering students into a life sciences-oriented engineering curriculum.
- Expansion of a junior-level hands-on class, Biological Frameworks for Engineers.
- A computer-based, self-paced tool for teaching biological fundamentals from an engineering perspective.
- A program for undergraduate research projects focused at the life sciences/engineering boundary to facilitate undergraduate research in this area and provide a supportive environment for students carrying out this research.