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Online Courses in Bioinformatics

Bioinformatics is the sciences where biology and computational analysis meet. Biological data is accumulating at a rapid rate. Information from research labs around the globe is collected in DNA and protein data banks. These DNA and protein sequences are made openly available from the data banks through the World Wide Web. Researchers use computer software programs to analyze sequence data, to identify genes and make comparisons with known genes and proteins. Understanding and use of these programs is essential in the modern Biotechnology laboratory. Here are some on-line tutorials and education programs that help unravel the complexities of this software. Applications of Bioinformatics range from functional analysis of protein regions to understanding relationships between genes and organisms.

o       Compiled by Dr. Rick Hershberger Carlow College

o       "A Web Site for Student Research in Bioinformatics, Molecular Biology, and Evolution" This site is developed specifically for the college level student. It contains a series of modules, each focusing on the use of a specific biocomputing tool. Scroll down to the middle of the page to find four interactive exercises. The exercises introduce tools to analyze DNA sequences, search for homologies using BLAST and to look at multiple sequence alignment. The exercises explain how to use these biocomputing tools, what kinds of scientific questions can be addressed using this technology, and what concepts in molecular biology, biochemistry, and evolution are illustrated through these investigations.

o       This website has more information on the field of Bioinformatics, including information about applications in biology. It features an extensive tutorial for those who wish to learn about BLAST. BLAST stands for Basic Local Alignment Search Tool. The free for use web-based software compares DNA sequence with previously characterized genes. Both functional and evolutionary information can be inferred by this method of rapid searching of nucleotide and protein databases. This site contains the information for setting up BLAST queries and analyzing results. It also includes a useful glossary that defines terms that can be confusing such as homology and parology.

o       The Biology Workbench is a computational interface that uses evolutionary problem based tutorials to investigate applications of Bioinformatics. A free registration is required to use the software and the teaching materials at this site. The tutorials use nationally recognized web-based database search and comparison software such as BLAST and NDJINN. The interactive software in Biology Workbench provides the framework to compare molecular sequences using these computer programs. The Biology Workbench brings the advanced computational technology used by today's scientists to any student desktop with a web browser.

o       Dr. John Spalding of New Mexico State University has developed this on-line college level course in Bioinformatics. This site includes the outline and syllabus for a comprehensive semester long course. It contains numerous links to other web-based resources and summaries of a variety of analysis software. The course introduces basic concepts of Bioinformatics and explains the computer tools and methods used for organizing and analyzing data. The course covers DNA sequencing, and the methods used to perform analyses such as alignments, homology searches, as well as advanced data manipulation techniques.

o       Educational Games

o       If you are looking for a more informal teaching tool check out this computer game. Origin: Unknown uses the actual Bioinformatics computational tools that are required in research. This game uses these computer tools to determine the identity of an unknown organism and save the world at the same time. It is intended to teach students and science educators to use web-based Bioinformatics tools to analyze bio-molecular sequence data. The game format simulates situations that rely on correct manipulation and analysis of data to win. This is a lot of fun but sometimes feels a bit slow because it uses the computational tools for real-time data analysis during the game.

        EMBnet Biocomputing Tutorials.

o       http://www.hgmp.mrc.ac.uk/Embnetut/Universl/embnettu.html

o       This site originates in The United Kingdom and Denmark. It is a series of tutorials designed to demonstrate a number of standard Bioinformatics and biocomputing tools. The tutorials include CRI-MAP a chromosome mapping tool and sequence analysis using the Staten Package and GCG. These programs take the subject into more depth and are written for the serious researcher.

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