N.S.F. Funds Upgrade of Biology Lab

By Sandra Howe
Staff Writer

Undergraduate biology and nursing students soon will be able to perform dissections and related procedures by computer, as a result of a major grant recently obtained by Assoc. Prof. Grant Balkema (Biology).

Balkema received a two-year, $130,000 matching grant from the National Science Foundation and Boston College to add 48 new computer workstations to the department's wet laboratories. The grant also supports the purchase of a software program which uses sophisticated animation to simulate the dissection process of a human or animal cadaver.

"Because the department does not utilize human cadavers, it has always been difficult to show some biological processes, until now," said Balkema. "The computers and software offer learning opportunities you simply cannot get from a text book. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this animation is worth a million."

Biology Chairman Assoc. Prof. William Petri said the University's support for Balkema and the project "helped persuade NSF that money spent here is well worth the effort. With this grant, we'll have the opportunity for many more of our lecture and laboratory courses to routinely utilize computer-enhanced instruction."

Students are now able to use the 14 workstations only once a semester at the Davis Laboratory of Computational Biology, which the department opened last fall, but with the additional computers Balkema expects they will have access once or twice a week. The new workstations will be available to all undergraduate biology majors, in addition to nursing students and those taking general biology or anatomy and physiology courses. Balkema expects between 2,500 and 3,000 students will use the lab each year.

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