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Exploring DNA Structure with Cn3D

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CBE - Life Sciences Education Volume 6, Number 1, ISSN 1931-7913


Researchers in the field of bioinformatics have developed a number of analytical programs and databases that are increasingly important for advancing biological research. Because bioinformatics programs are used to analyze, visualize, and/or compare biological data, it is likely that the use of these programs will have a positive impact on biology education. Over the past years, we have been working to help biology instructors introduce bioinformatics activities into their curricula by providing them with instructional materials that use bioinformatics programs and databases as educational tools. In this study, we measured the impact of a set of these materials on student learning. The activities in these materials asked students to use the molecular structure visualization program Cn3D to locate, identify, or analyze diverse features in DNA structures. Both the experimental groups of college and high school students showed significant increases in learning relative to control groups. Further, learning gains by the college students were correlated with the number of activities assigned. We conclude that working with Cn3D was important for improving student understanding of DNA structure. This study is one example of how a bioinformatics program for visualization can be used to support student learning. (Contains 7 figures.)


Porter, S.G., Day, J., McCarty, R.E., Shearn, A., Shingles, R., Fletcher, L., Murphy, S. & Pearlman, R. (2007). Exploring DNA Structure with Cn3D. CBE - Life Sciences Education, 6(1), 65-73. Retrieved October 20, 2019 from .

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