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October 17, 2013

Six Websites You Need to Bookmark: October Picks

Check out these websites from GEN's Best of the Web.

Six Websites You Need to Bookmark: October Picks

The Superstars of Science website received two stars. Find out more about this site and others below.

  • The Internet is a big place; when you're looking for biotech-related websites, where should you start? At GEN's Best of the Web, of course! Every other issue, we bring you a list of biotech- and biopharma-related websites we think you, GEN reader, would find useful and/or interesting. Here is our most recent list of the Best of the Web. Enjoy!

    Four stars: Excellent
    Three stars: Very Good
    Two stars: Good
    + Strong points
    Weak points

  • Teach.Genetics ★★★★

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    + Beautiful site design, great educator resources

    From the people at the University of Utah who brought you the beautiful and informative site Learn.Genetics, the Teach.Genetics website proves to be just as visually appealing and useful. The website is very new (in its Beta preview as of this writing), so interested readers should continue to check in as the site grows. In the meantime, however, there is still plenty to explore. The Print-and-Go lesson plan index page is an excellent resource for educators, as it provides all-in-one lesson plans, student worksheets, and answer keys. The topics are varied and fall under categories such as “The new science of addition: genetics and the brain” and “Gene therapy: molecular bandage?” In addition to the lesson plan index, there are also materials for an entire unit on heredity, as well as teaching materials to supplement the “amazing cells” and “epigenetics” curricula from the sister Learn.Genetics website.

  • AmoebaDB ★★★★

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    + Beautiful site design, great organization

    An oasis for all things amoeboid, AmoebaDB is a beautifully designed and very useful resource for researchers working with amoebae. A member of the EuPathDB family of websites, AmoebaDB follows the same format as the other sister sites; that is, the homepage clusters information into three options. The options are gene identification, identification of other data types, and tools. Users can search for genes by a number of metrics such as protein attributes, genomic position, and cellular location, while the “other data types” option allows users to search for isolates, genomic sequences, and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), among other things. Under the “tools” section, one will find links to services such as BLAST and PubMed/Entrez. A newsfeed keeps site visitors up to date on release notices and other database-related news items, and an education and tutorials section will get you on your way to exploring this and the other EuPathDB websites.

  • Superstars of Science ★★

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    + Nice concept, entertaining
     Browse feature broken, distracting rating system

    On the Superstars of Science website you won’t find any references to Spider Man or Superman. Instead, the superheroes you’ll encounter are highly influential and decorated scientists of our age, including many Nobel laureates. It is interesting to peruse the profiles of the scientists on the site, who span the disciplines of biochemistry, biology, chemistry, and immunology, among others. Users can search for scientists by name, institution, or keyword, and site visitors can also nominate a scientist for inclusion in this virtual Legion of Academic Super Heroes. The website is not without its flaws—for instance, users are currently unable to browse the collection of scientific superstars (the navigational links are broken). Additionally, the scoring system employed by the website (which awards points for academic metrics such as publications and public metrics such as Facebook “likes”) is distracting and unnecessary. I don’t feel that the emphasis should be on ranking these scientists—rather, all of these magnificent people should be equally celebrated.

  • CalPhotos ★★★

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    + Very large image collection
     Some photos without much (or any) description

    Who doesn’t love looking at photos? To peruse a wonderful collection of photos specializing in natural history, visit The University of California, Berkeley’s CalPhotos website. This site, which has been amassing photographer-submitted images since 1995, houses almost 400,000 photos documenting plants, fungi, animals, people/culture, and landscapes/habitats. Visitors to the site can either browse by category or can query the database by any of a number of parameters such as scientific or common name, location where the photo was taken, and photographer. Although the title of the site may lead you to believe otherwise, the CalPhotos collection is not limited to species/locations found in California. So go ahead and treat yourself to a vacation of wildlife and landscape viewing…right from your own home.

  • Ribosomal Mutation Database ★★

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    + Clearly states phenotypes and citations
     Form view displays just one result per page

    What happens when single nucleotides within the sequences encoding ribosomal RNAs are mutated? That is the question addressed by the Ribosomal Mutation Database curated by faculty at Franklin & Marshall College. This database houses just over 1,000 records for ribosomal RNA mutations, supplying a brief description of the resulting phenotypes and the primary citations. The records are primarily from E. coli, with only fewer than 100 records hailing from other organisms. Database users can display the information in either table view (which displays 10 records per page, apparently sorted by base position at which the mutation occurs) or form view. The latter view displays only one entry per page, which makes it quite inconvenient to browse. (As users can filter the results by position, alteration, organism, etc. in either view, the form view seems unnecessary.)

  • The Raptor Center ★★

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    + Nice educational information
     Much information targeted to younger audience

    Sorry to disappoint all the dinosaur lovers out there, but these raptors are of the birds of prey variety. The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine is a clinic that provides care to sick and injured raptors. In addition to describing the clinic, the website for the Raptor Center also provides nice sections devoted to education, conservation, and miscellaneous raptor-related activities (an owl paper bag puppet, anyone?). The education section contains information about all of the raptors kept at the clinic as education birds, as well a page providing detailed information about 40 different species of raptors. The species-specific information covers identifying characteristics, range, habitat, nesting, and feeding habits of the birds. For younger audiences, the “just for fun” section of the website includes activity books, puppets and masks, and games (such as matching chicks with their adult counterparts).

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