Taralyn Tan Ph.D. Curriculum Fellow Harvard Medical
Check out these websites from GEN’s Best of the Web.
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 list of the Best of the Web from our September 15 issue. Enjoy!
Four stars: Excellent
Three stars: Very Good
Two stars: Good
+ Strong points
– Weak points
+ Provides in-depth biological information and practical applications
– Some awkward site navigation
We can look to nature for inspiration to solve problems that we humans face. For instance, butterflies keep themselves clean without using any energy or detergents via nanoscale structures on their wings. In turn, humans have now mimicked the physical and chemical properties of those structures to create self-cleaning paints and coatings. Many more examples of this type of biomimicry in design and engineering principles can be found at the AskNature website. The purpose of the site is not only to inform people about how biomimicry has already been put to use, but also to inspire designers and engineers to envision new utilities. As such, the site may best be explored via the “How would nature…” search bar, in which users type a keyword, verb or phrase relating to a specific design concept (perhaps something they are trying to create themselves). Nature is bursting with design and engineering ingenuity—go explore for yourself!
+ Offers instruction in different languages, projects
The Jellies Zone ★★★
+ Great news section, large number of links
– Some site organizational issues
Ask someone to give you an example of a gelatinous zooplankton, and you will likely get a blank stare in return. However, most people are quite familiar with at least one type of organism that falls within this category: the jellyfish. The Jellies Zone website provides information about “true” jellyfish (as classified in the phylum Cnidaria) as well as other “jellies” that roam the seas, with an emphasis on those in the Pacific Ocean. Six major groups are represented on the site: hydromedusae, siphonophores, scyphomedusae, comb jellies, pelagic gastropods, and pelagic tunicates. Descriptions of how to distinguish among the groups are given and the site also contains a number of photos to allow visitors to truly gain an appreciation for the diversity of gelatinous zooplankton in existence. A frequently updated news page provides visitors with the latest jelly happenings around the world.
+ Lots of information over a variety of topics
– Poor site organization—two separate navigational toolbars
Welcome to the world of archaea, zaria—in short, microbes. MicrobeWorld is an educational website by the American Society for Microbiology that allows visitors to learn about the various types of microbes that exist all around us. The site contains a lot of information, but it isn’t necessarily organized in the best way. Visitors to the site should begin their journey by scrolling to the bottom of the page—here you will find useful site navigation tools. Information is divided into categories such as “what is a microbe,” “types of microbes,” “interesting facts,” and “history of microbiology.” There are also sections devoted to careers in microbiology and classroom experiments. Beyond the bottom-of-the-screen navigational toolbar, site visitors can browse the site’s contents by news, video, images, or other resources via the main toolbar at the top of the page.
+ Many species included, easy to browse
– Statistics page still under construction
In the big world of little RNAs, there is much to be explored. For instance, how many miRNAs have been discovered in the genome of the mosquito, Aedes aegypti? How many gene targets exist for those miRNAs? If you find yourself pondering these, or similar, questions, you should take a trip to MicroCosm, a miRNA resource developed by the Enright Lab at the EMBL-EBI containing computationally predicted targets for miRNAs. The database of predicted targets is not just limited to mouse or human but rather, it contains information for 22 species ranging from worms, to insects, to chickens, to humans. In a nice summary page, visitors can find the list of included species, as well as the number of miRNAs, transcripts, and targets for each species that are included in the database. Users can download the target information for all species, in either GFF or TXT format.