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26th November 2010 - experience report

The day started at 9:30 AM with a cup of coffee and tea in Nijmegen. Among the participants were thirteen high school teachers and, maybe even more interesting, seven high school students1. The students were 15 or 16 years old and came from two different high schools. They voluntarily participated in the training.

After a short welcome from Hienke, Wigard Kloosterman of the Cuppen research group of University Medical Centre Utrecht gave a very comprehensible presentation on his research into a rare genetic disorder that involves mutations that affect chromosomal structure. Using bioinformatics tools, the participants were able to go through some of the steps of Wigard's research.

Next Dirk Jan and Hienke presented their developed navigation-tool: NAVIGENE. This tool guides teachers through the many tools and databases that are used in bioinformatics.

Participants were able to practice shortly with this tool by working on two case studies. One case concerned the structure of the human dectin protein, made visible by 3D-visualisation software YASARA. The other case focused on a phylogenetic tree based on the amino acid sequence of insulin in different organisms.

After lunch, the participants formed small combined teacher-student groups and prepared their own school-assignment on bioinformatics. Teachers contributed their knowledge on the subject, complemented by the students' computer skills and their particular interests. The groups came up with set-ups for assignments on the activation of pepsinogen and on a phylogenetic tree based on a protein involved in endosymbiosis.

After a drink and snacks, the participants could look back on an intensive but satisfying day full of bioinformatics.

NAVIGENE: every question asked in this scheme can be solved by an instructional guide

A great success

Both the teachers and students found the training very meaningful and valuable. Students didn’t see the direct use of the content in their personal life, but they stated that they might use it in their graduation paper. Teachers were very enthusiastic about the accessibility of bioinformatics through NAVIGENE. They found the tool very useful and one teacher even said: “The NAVIGENE is what I was looking for”.

During the evaluation all teachers said that they were planning to use bioinformatics in their classes. 

1. Teacher-participants came from seven Dutch schools in Arnhem, Doorn, Druten, Nijmegen, Sittard en Waalwijk