Hughes Medical Puts Fascinating Science on Internet.(LIFE - SCIENCE &Amp; TECHNOLOGY)(WEBWISE)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 15, 2002 | Go to article overview

Hughes Medical Puts Fascinating Science on Internet.(LIFE - SCIENCE &Amp; TECHNOLOGY)(WEBWISE)


Byline: Joseph Szadkowski, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Howard Hughes Jr. led an exciting life before his legendary phobias set in. The energetic entrepreneur, who had a penchant for aviation, filmmaking and creating new technology, took a sizable inheritance from his father and transformed himself into America's first billionaire.

One of his more philanthropic endeavors led to an environment in which scientists could conduct cutting-edge research, and, in Mr. Hughes' words, probe "the genesis of life itself."

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), established in 1953, supports 324 biomedical researchers working in 70 labs throughout the United States while developing programs to improve science education at all academic levels.

Just one of its many cyber-outlets accomplishes the latter by allowing inquisitive surfers a chance to learn something about cell and structural biology, genetics, immunology and neuroscience through numerous interactive presentations.

BioInteractive.org

Site address: www.biointeractive.org

Creator: The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a nonprofit organization with headquarters in Chevy Chase, created and supports the site.

Creator quotable: "We created this Web site to provide a place where

the general public, but especially high school students and teachers, could go to find fun, engaging and scientifically rigorous information about cutting-edge biomedical research," says Dennis Liu, director of HHMI's BioInteractive Web site.

"We had been designing animations and virtual labs to support a live lecture series, and the Web site was a great vehicle for making these materials work for the largest possible audience. We also produce materials in print, CD, videotape and DVD format. We believe in using the strengths of any media that will reach the audience."

Word from the Webwise: From an unassuming but brightly colored opening page, visitors are taken on a journey into the scientific universe in which acquiring knowledge becomes a dynamic experience.

Five bannerlike icons reveal the sections - Virtual Labs, Animations, Virtual Museum, Web Video, and Click and Learn - with each using moving illustrations, video, audio, the latest Web design techniques and plenty of text to unleash educational modules.

"So much to do in so little time," became my battle cry as I plunged into the 38 modules. To give just an idea of the diversity to be found among the various sections, here's a look at modules from Virtual Labs, Virtual Museums and Web Video.

I first returned to my days in high school biology class to perform a bit of virtual dissection through the Neurophysiology Laboratory. There, my subject was a leech, and the module carefully explained the equipment needed (even the price) to conduct a demonstration on how nerve cells collect touch information from the skin.

Visitors get to grab the tools and cut into the subject through clever interactive animation snippets and eventually use a macromanipulator, dissection microscope and oscilloscope to identify and measure the voltage of individual neurons and their responses to a feather, probe and forceps. …

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