Web term papers: Learning structural biology through the creation of website content

COMP 117

Warren H. Gallagher, Chemistry Department, Chemistry Department, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Phillips Hall 437, Eau Claire, WI 54702
For the past eight years students in a Biophysical Chemistry class at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire have gained hands-on experience with manipulating biological macromolecules by creating website content. The students are required to write a term paper on the structural aspects of some well-characterized biomolecular system and to publish these papers as websites that include interactive 3-dimensional molecular graphics images. These images are embedded into web pages using the Chime web browser plug-in. Simple button-activated scripts are also embedded to allow a visitor to the site to modify the images in context with the narrative of the term paper. The primary purpose of the assignment is not to train our students to become webmasters, but rather to have them use the activity of designing website content as a vehicle to become more intimately familiar with biomolecules at the molecular level. Other advantages of the website format is the ability to use hyperlinks to make connections to a diverse body of reference information from within the term papers and to share the fruits of the studentís efforts with a much larger audience.