Friday, October 25, 2013

URSP Student Ed Martin Designs an HIV mini-game for deeper understanding of HIV cell biology

      I became interested in this project while I was studying game design last semester, and Dr. Kauffman, one of my previous professors, mentioned a project another student was looking to complete this semester on the subject of creating a game to teach essential HIV concepts. I felt it was a great opportunity to apply what I had learned in my game design class, while learning a lot about the biology involved.

      This project related to my long-term goals in that I see it helping me two-fold, in relation to my career, and academic agenda. As with any major project, the experience and results of this research project will be a great addition to my resume, and to prepare for a position which requires much research, creation and analysis. I am also very interested in earning a Graduate degree in a few years after starting my career and, although perhaps not quite as intense as some of the Graduate programs, this research opportunity will assist in preparation.

      On a weekly basis my project involves another person, including myself, in the creation and research. I work with Hyun Sung, who is studying Neuroscience here at Mason. She focuses on the depth of the biology, and her research assists in the 'gameifying' of the subject material, while I focus mostly on game design. We meet each week to discuss topics such as a storyboard for the game, clarification on particular design elements and specifics in biology. In addition, each week I continue work toward a finished game which, when played, will teach the essential information pertaining to HIV. This past week I’ve focused on finalizing the decision on a game engine for a web-based game. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve discovered how difficult it can be to find the right material, tool, or information to fit in the research puzzle. But that’s part of what makes it research. And sometimes, the researcher must create their own tools for the task.