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StarBiochem, a resource from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is a platform-independent 3-D protein viewer designed to help students understand the structure and function of molecules. StarBiochem displays molecules from the Protein Data Bank (PDB) and allows users to select parts of the molecule and control how the selected parts are displayed. It can categorize any protein PDB coordinate file into four different structural levels: primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary. These features let students interact with the molecule—for example, by seeing disease-associated mutations, observing structural contexts, and physically manipulating the molecules in real-time. A user guide explains how to load the PDB files, how to display molecular structures, how to select atoms, and how to manipulate molecule visibility. The website also contains a guided inquiry tutorial on protein structure, using human deoxy hemoglobin as an example. In the tutorial, students explore the mutation that causes sickle cell anemia. Problem sets let students examine the structures of two proteins—lysozyme and nitrogenase Fe. Supplementary resources include 3-D visualizations of amino acids, the peptide bond, and nucleotides. The Star (Software Tools for Academics and Researchers) Program also has a suite of other software tools and database applications on its website. These include StarBiogene, which allows students to analyze and visualize genomic expression data, and StarGenetics, a genetic cross simulator available within this database.
Program Director: Graham C. Walker, Ph.D.
Award Years: 1989, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006
Summary: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Its HHMI-funded initiatives include:
- The development of project-based laboratory courses and undergraduate research opportunity programs that allow students to work on cutting-edge research projects in collaboration with faculty labs;
- The Whitehead Seminar Series for High School Teachers, a monthly lecture series featuring talks by world-class researchers, which provides a framework for teachers to incorporate new ideas into their science classrooms, and
- The Whitehead Spring Lecture Series for High School Students, a program that includes laboratory demonstrations at the Whitehead and field trips to local biotechnology companies.