J is for Jitterbug

| April 15, 2014

In a captivating video called “The inner life of a cell”, molecular biologists from Harvard in collaboration with the animation company XVIVO show just how powerful combining scientific content with aesthetic presentation can be. In this fascinating three-minute video, the spectator is taken on a visual journey depicting the intricate inner workings of an immune cell. As we cross the membrane and enter the cell, we are exposed to a multitude of colorful proteins floating through the cytoplasm, vibrating, interacting with each other and, as a journalist from the NYT puts it, “doing the jitterbug”.

I think that many science educators will agree with me in saying that teaching DNA synthesis, gene expression and other molecular processes happening within cells is a critical and delicate point of the science education journey. This is because these are extremely important and basic mechanisms underlying the majority of biological processes (their future understanding of virtually every other biological process is tightly dependent on this), yet they are complicated to grasp due to their “abstract” nature (these are molecular mechanisms and hence cannot be visualized directly). When I had to teach some of these concepts to my students, this video proved to be extremely helpful. The feedback I received from my class clearly suggested that understanding was enhanced incredibly thanks to the aid of visuals, that is, when the students could actually see what was happening inside the cell. This effect was magnified by the superior aesthetic features of this particular video. For this reason, I believe there is the need for more collaborations between artists and scientists to create teaching materials of superior aesthetic value in order to enhance the learning experience.

Here is a link to the video, enjoy! —> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJyUtbn0O5Y