CESAME receives science education grant from the Astellas USA Foundation

The Astellas USA Foundation announced support for the Protein Modeling Challenge, a competition that encourages high school students to demonstrate their knowledge of a specific topic in biomedical research and to build a model of a protein having a major role within the topic.  This year’s theme is rational drug design and the students will build models of Met protein, an important target of cancer chemotherapy research. The $15,700 award will be directed by Joan Kiely, a faculty member in the Center for Science and Mathematics Education, who has directed the program since 2008.  The competition was previously supported by the OSI Pharmaceuticals Foundation; OSI Pharmaceuticals was purchased by the Astellas Corporation in 2010.

The Protein Modeling Challenge is centered on 36 teams of high school students accompanied by their teacher, who use current research literature and scientific databases to build a model of a protein.  During the competition, the teams have an opportunity to interact with Stony Brook students and professional scientists.  For the competition, teams gather at Stony Brook to explain the function of their protein and their model of it.  They are then evaluated on their background knowledge and accuracy of the model.  Select teams are then invited to use computer design software to design and build a 3-dimensional model of the topic protein using our new 3-D rapid prototyping machine, purchased by a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. 

Joan Kiely, Director of the Biotechnology Teaching Center at Stony Brook University and Principal Investigator of this proposal, will provide background for teachers in protein chemistry, computer visualization software, scientific databases and the use of molecular models in the classroom.  Training sessions will be open to interested teachers and pre-service teachers throughout the metro New York area.  “Last year’s competition attracted over a hundred students”, states Joan, who will lead the program for the 5th consecutive year. “Students created models of the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor and learned about its role in lung cancer.  The energy, understanding and work ethic of the students was incredible.  It gives me the sense that the future will be in good hands.”

David Bynum, Director of the Center for Science and Mathematics Education, adds, “Joan is like the pied piper for science education.  Whether she is teaching graduate students in the science education program, undergraduates in her Cancer Biology class or high school students in the Biotechnology Teaching Laboratory, she increases student levels of interest, understanding and confidence.  Innovative educators like Joan are a gift to the next generation.”                                       

Photo caption: Joan Kiely with model of the CDK1 protein


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