Campus News

NIH grant will be used to develop 3-D science lessons

After using three-dimensional models and animation successfully for years to help veterinary students understand complicated biological processes, UGA researchers now want to take the user-friendly lessons to Georgia high school students.

J. Steve Oliver, associate ­department head of science and math education in the College of Education, is principal investigator of the project, which received a five-year $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health Science Education Partnership Program. Oliver and several other UGA researchers and state partners will create and evaluate 3-D animated biology lessons for high school students in hopes of enticing more of them to choose careers in science. The grant is funded by the National Center for Research Resources, a part of the NIH.

“We’re deeply concerned about the general lack of interest in science among young people in our country,” said Oliver. “We believe at least part of the reason is that many don’t understand the relevance of science to their lives. The animated lessons will help them to see biology as ‘real,’ and not just a list of facts and terms.”

Oliver’s UGA co-principal investigators on the project include Jim Moore, Cindi Ward and Scott Brown, professors in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Four other professors from veterinary medicine, Gaylen Edwards, David Hurley, Oliver Li and Tom Robertson, along with Randall Tackett, a professor in the College of Pharmacy, and Mike Hussey, an associate professor of dramatic media, will help create the 3-D animations. Al Cohen and Sara Templin in the College of Education will coordinate the evaluation efforts when the new materials are used in schools.

Researchers will create and then evaluate the effectiveness of the lessons, which present five vital biological processes-filtration, passive and active transport, blood pressure and glucose homeostasis in the body. The 3-D animations will compare the function and structure of a healthy kidney to one affected by diabetes. Students will examine each of the biological processes in the normal kidney and then investigate how they are altered in the diseased kidney, subconsciously learning the material while enjoying the experience.