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 most recent list of the Best of the Web. Enjoy!
Four stars: Excellent
Three stars: Very Good
Two stars: Good
+ Strong points
– Weak points
+ Great collection of lectures and educational resources
We are officially in the era of free online educational resources, and this includes the fantastic website iBiology. With a tagline of “bringing the world’s best biology to you,” iBiology does just that through its seminars, educational resources, and magazine. The seminars section of the site contains traditional research seminars given by university professors, usually comprised of two or three parts and lasting one or two hours. Seminars begin with a broad introduction to the topic and then focus on the speaker’s own research. The educational resources include classroom lectures, a few complete courses (such as a course in microscopy), and resources for educators. Finally, the magazine (which consists of short videos) focuses on the “human side of research,” covering topics such as professional development, diversity in science, and science and society.
+ Nicely organized, detailed information
A virtual gold mine for ion channel enthusiasts, Channelpedia is a comprehensive ion channel resource that compiles the relevant information from published literature (via automatic PubMed queries) and organizes it by channel type. Channels are organized according to their general class (e.g., potassium, sodium, TRP channels), and a general information page about that channel group accompanies each class. For more specific information related to a particular member within a group, users can select individual channel subtypes from a drop-down menu. The information pages are divided into various sections including a general introduction, relevant genes, transcripts, genetic interactions, protein and structural information, gene expression patterns, functional data, and relevant Hodgkin-Huxley models. You might say that visitors will get “excited” when they encounter the large “influx” of information on this site!
+ Large number of links
– Poor site design, images not annotated
The product of a group of geneticists and pathologists from the United States and across Europe, PathBase is an online resource for mouse pathology that features histopathology images from wild-type and genetically manipulated mouse lines. Each image is accompanied by information such as strain, genotype, pathology, and tissue; however, most images themselves are not annotated in any way. If you’d like to actually contribute to the database, you can create an account on the site and upload your own images. The database is easy to search once you find the correct page, which is made difficult by the website’s poor design. There is no “search” feature on the homepage (or even any way to access the database). Instead, one must look to the small text at the bottom of the page to find the link to the “search PathBase” page. In addition to the database, the website contains a number of links related to mouse genetics, phenotyping, and pathology.
MicrobeHunter Microscopy Magazine ★★★
+ Diverse resources for amateur microscopists, free monthly magazine
– Limited to light microscopy
Here is a website that taps into the inner microscopist that resides within each of us—for who isn’t fascinated by the beautiful structures and organisms that are too small to see with the naked eye? MicrobeHunter.com is the online home for the magazine of the same name, as well as a corresponding blog. The monthly magazine (available for free via PDF download) includes its fair share of beautiful microscopy images, information about microscopes, and do-it-yourself articles such as how to build a Lego microscope. Beyond the magazine, the website includes tutorial videos and a “beginner’s guide to microscopy.” The site includes an image gallery (because, let’s be honest, no microscopy website is complete without one) as well as a community forum and a sizeable list of microscopy-related links.
+ Customizable gene reports, many datasets
Perhaps you are familiar with the BioGPS app (maybe even as a result of this column), but the original web resource deserves its own moment in the spotlight. BioGPS is an excellent gene portal that emphasizes customizability. That is, the people behind the site recognize that a geneticist’s needs won’t be the same as those of a molecular biologist when it comes to gene annotation. Once users register for a free account, they can search for their gene of interest and subsequently build customized gene reports. This is accomplished by selecting specific plugins (third-party websites) from the sizeable plugin library, thereby displaying only the information that is pertinent to the user. Plugins range from literature resources, to pathway databases, to expression data and protein resources. As for the datasets themselves, BioGPS provides site visitors with downloadable datasets that span four species—human, mouse, rat, and pig—though the majority of the datasets relate to humans.
Test My Brain ★★
+ Visitors participate in research through short tests
– Only seven tests on site
Do you want to do brain teaser-like puzzles and help science at the same time? The Test My Brain website allows site visitors to participate in seven tests, each of which represents an active area of research in cognitive neuroscience. The tests are short, ranging from estimated completion times of 5 to 20 minutes…the perfect duration for a web-surfing break during a long day in lab. The tests range from solving puzzles, to face recognition, to assessments of what you value, to continuous concentration. In addition to the seven tests, the website also includes a companion blog that covers related research topics. Although it’s unfortunate that the number of tests on the website is small, this page is definitely worth a visit if you’re looking to kill a few minutes and contribute to research at the same time.