NSF Award Funds Development of StarCellBio

January 2012

The Education Group is excited to announce that a National Science Foundation (NSF) funding award will support our development of a new biology education software tool.  The NSF TUES (Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) grant awarded to MIT Department of Biology Professors Chris Kaiser and Graham Walker in August 2011 will fund the creation of StarCellBio – an interactive, inquiry-based, virtual Cell Biology experiment simulator.  This collaborative development initiative is being conducted by MIT Department of Biology faculty, Education Group scientists, and software developers in the MIT Office of Educational Innovation & Technology (OEIT).

Bypassing the need for laboratory space, specialized equipment, and expensive reagents, the goal of StarCellBio is to offer unprecedented opportunities for students to interact with actual visual cell biology data.  The software will utilize microscopy images and time-lapse movie data in demonstrations of key topics, including cell cycle, intracellular localization and colocalization, trafficking, signaling, cell motility, cell diversity, and tissue organization. StarCellBio will incorporate these real data along with computer-generated data in interactive experiment simulations that will generate a realistic array of experimental outcomes.  As with other biology education software (e.g., StarGenetics & StarBiochem) developed at MIT by this group of collaborators, StarCellBio will be used to support biology curriculum at MIT and will also be made freely and publically available online for use by students anywhere.

Working closely with Cell Biology professors at MIT, Education Group scientists Lourdes Alemán and Alison Brauneis and OEIT software developers Ivan Ceraj and Sara Bonner are already well underway with developing a prototype version of StarCellBio.  Although there remains a great deal of work to be done, the prototype version can already simulate the generation of Western blots based on experimental steps selected by the student user.  The developers are now working hard to build FACS experiment simulation capabilities into the StarCellBio software.  They expect to have a beta version of StarCellBio ready for trial in MIT Cell Biology classrooms in 2013.

Left: Preliminary design for the StarCellBio User Interface that Education Group scientists generated in early stages of developing this new educational software tool. Right: Image of a western blot simulated by the prototype version of StarCellBio, currently under development.


Other Education Group News:

June 2011: Transforming MIT Tools for High School Science Education Education Group Research Scientists Dr. Lourdes Alemán and Dr. Stacie Bumgarner have been exploring ways to expand the utility of MIT-developed StarGenetics and StarBiochem software into high school science education settings. Read more…

February 2011: HHMI Professor Graham Walker delivers Plenary Address on Science Education at AAAS 2011 In his plenary address entitled Inspiration and Engagement in Education, delivered at the AAAS 2011 Annual Meeting, HHMI Professor Graham Walker discussed the exciting synergy that exists between science education and laboratory research. Read more…