Tim Herman, Ph.D. and Mark Hoelzer, MFA, of MSOE’s Center for BioMolecular Modeling (CBM), were invited speakers at the European Bioinformatics Institute on Wellcome Genome Campus in Cambridge, UK. Their presentations focused on bringing molecular biology to life for secondary teachers and students through 3D printed molecular structures.  

“Physical models are the best way to engage people in complicated but fascinating topics,” said Herman. “Just hold hemoglobin, a ribosome, or a CRISPR Cas9 model in your hands and you’ll understand the power of modeling.”  

In early February, Herman and Hoelzer held a workshop for secondary art and science teachers, and another for their students. These workshops were organized by the Protein Data Bank in Europe (PDBe) in an effort to expand a novel outreach program in which they introduce local art teachers and their students to the Protein Data Bank and virtual images of proteins as inspiration for their artwork. Now the PDBe wants to expand this program by involving science students in the program.  

In a third presentation, Herman and Hoelzer addressed the community engagement staff and researchers from the Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in a seminar entitled “Communicating Your Science.” The LMB is considered by many people to be the birthplace of modern molecular biology.   

It was here that the structure of DNA was first described by Watson and Crick in 1953.  Among the long list of other major advances in structural biology that have come from the LMB include the structure of hemoglobin by Max Perutz in1962, the dideoxy-nucleotide sequencing method of Fred Sanger in 1980 and most recently, the atomic structure of the 70S ribosome by Venki Ramakhrisnan in 2009. Hoelzer and Herman have recently created a physical model of the ribosome – a large multi-subunit complex composed of 50 proteins and 6 RNAs.  

“There are countless, amazingly-detailed stories of how the invisible molecular world works,” Herman said. “We demonstrated how we use 3D printing technologies and hands-on modeling to engage high school students in the United States. In addition to functioning as a hands-on focus point for exploring proteins, physical models are powerful thinking tools that stimulate meaningful conversations among scientists, students and other audiences.”  

Dr. Herman has reserved two spots in the CBM professional development course, “Modeling the Molecular World,” for Cambridge science teachers. Participants in the week-long summer workshop on the MSOE campus explore the invisible molecular world using a variety of kits and models and supporting digital resources.

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Dr. Timothy Herman

Department: Center for BioMolecular Modeling
(414) 277-7529 Cudahy Campus Center: CC202 herman@msoe.edu

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Mark Hoelzer

Department: Center for BioMolecular Modeling
(414) 277-4554 Cudahy Campus Center: CC202 hoelzer@msoe.edu