An on-line learning experience in Computational Genomics
Author: Dr. Henry Keil
In October 2002, a new Web-site called the Genome Analysis Training Centre (in short GATC) and hosted by the Dept. of Biological Sciences, Brunel University, has been launched (http://www.brunel.ac.uk/depts/bio/GATC)
GATC’s main objective is to provide a platform which allows relative newcomers into the field of Computational Genomics to make themselves familiar with the content of some of the most pertinent databases used for storing and displaying genomic, and increasingly transcriptomic and proteomic data.
No prior knowledge of computing is required for studies within GATC as this is not a Bioinformatics site. Its emphasis lies instead in the analysis and interpretation of existing molecular data, in the context of well defined, but hypothetical test cases. However a sound understanding of Molecular Biology and Genetics is required to fully benefit from the activities offered within GATC.
The Web-site is built around an assisted ‘problem-based learning’ (PBL) approach throughout; All the PBL-exercises aim to enable the learner, through hypothetical scenarios and case studies, to undertake a number of interactive tasks which, at increasing depth and complexity, aim to reveal the intricate connections between molecular biology and the observed disease pathology.
Within the site there are at present five main ‘Topics’ with four being more or less complete. These topics include ‘Inherited Diseases / Virtual positional cloning / Disease, mutations and pathologies / Bacterial genomics.
All these main topics contain at least one, and in one case, three subtopics in the form of defined medical or scientific problems; we hope to be able to expand the range of topics covered over the next year or so.
It was decided to keep the page layout simple and intuitive. Clear aims and objectives are given for each activity and some instruction is provided to assist the novice user to configure the relevant software (browser, plug-ins, Java capabilities etc.). A conclusion is provided for each (sub)topic to set the scene for possible further investigations.
It is hoped that GATC will serve as a major ‘stop-over’ or ‘drop-in’ site for any learner who wishes to explore the fascinating area of Molecular and Computational Genomics, applied within a medical context. We shall aim to develop and improve the site within the next 6 months and would welcome any suggestions and feedback on further refinements and additional content.
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