Computer for Analysis

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Many analyses of biological data can be accomplished through the existing programs (e.g., BLAST). However, to modify or construct applications is necessary in various research areas. Learning how a computer application is developed provides students with insight into the software they use. Computer understanding can be taught by providing experiences in computer programming, teaching about computer algorithms, and how to construct simple simulations. This familiarity could be accomplished by exposing students to programming in higher-level languages. The Internet is increasingly becoming the primary source of information for life scientists. Databases in a variety of areas (e.g., genomics, global warming, population dynamics) provide integrative frameworks that are valuable for addressing important biological issues. Becoming fully conversant with databases such as the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) is important for all biology majors.

NCBI's mission is to develop new information technologies to aid in the understanding of fundamental molecular and genetic processes that control health and disease. Searchable databases at NCBI's Web site include Genbank (all publicly available DNA sequences), PubMed (access m more than 1 1 million Medline citations of biomedical literature, including links to full text articles), BLAST (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool for carrying out similarity searches of DNA or protein query sequences), Taxonomy (a wide range of taxonomic information at the molecular level), and Structure (database of three-dimensional structure of biological macromolecules and tools for visualization and comparative analysis). Major model organism databases such as Fly Base are useful, and The Interactive Fly is a related learning tool. Sites such as PubMed are essential for searching the literature and valuable for linking to full-text publications. Students should learn how to obtain different kinds of information from Web sites (e.g., DNA and protein sequences, atomic coordinates, phylogenetic relationships, functional anatomy, and biogeographic ecosystem data) and how to make information available to others over the Web (e.g., depositing new DNA sequences in Genbank).

In addition, students should learn about mechanisms (e.g., peer review) of evaluating and increasing the reliability of information obtained on the Web. Students should have experience operating lab equipment controlled by computer, and observe or attempt modification of the settings or the programming to fit the needs of the experiment. This type of experience is important for demonstrating that biological research is not constrained to the use of preexisting applications and materials. New approaches and equipment are developed regularly. Browsing through all the things above, maybe you have learned something on learning a foreign language, especially the one you have chosen. Want to learn more, click Rosetta Stone Hindi and Rosetta Stone Italian.

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