Cool Videos: Insulin from Bacteria to You

If you have a smartphone, you’ve probably used it to record a video or two. But could you use it to produce a video that explains a complex scientific topic in 2 minutes or less? That was the challenge posed by the RCSB Protein Data Bank last spring to high school students across the nation. And the winning result is the video that you see above!

This year’s contest, which asked students to provide a molecular view of diabetes treatment and management, attracted 53 submissions from schools from coast to coast. The winning team—Andrew Ma, George Song, and Anirudh Srikanth—created their video as their final project for their advanced placement (AP) biology class at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South, Princeton Junction, NJ.

Although they had a production budget of—wait for it—zero, Ma, Song, and Srikanth brought their story to life by making creative use of a smartphone camera, a standard whiteboard, ball-and-stick chemistry models, and a wealth of molecular and historic images available through free online resources. One of the best resources turned out to be the challenge’s sponsor, the RCSB Protein Databank. The database, which is partly supported by NIH, provides free access to the structures of an incredible array of proteins and nucleic acids “from actinomycin to Zika virus.”

The winning team’s teacher, Matthew Foret, said the video challenge offers an excellent opportunity for biology students to take concepts they’ve learned—such as protein structure, protein receptors, and genetic engineering—and make them come alive through video. In fact, 2017 is the second year in a row that a video produced by Foret’s students has captured top prize in the national challenge.

The topic for next year’s video challenge hasn’t yet been revealed. But when it is, be assured that Foret—along with teachers all across the nation—will have a bunch of creative teens ready to roll, with their smartphones in hand!

Links:

RCSB Protein Data Bank (Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ and University of California, San Diego)

2017 RCSB Protein Data Bank Video Challenge for High School Students: Molecular View of Diabetes Treatment and Management

NIH Support: National Library of Medicine

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