Thursday, November 21, 2013

URSP Student Hyun Sung Deepens HIV Cell Biology Understanding through Interactive Games

I got interested in the HIV game development project as I met my mentor Dr. Schwebach in my cell biology class. I have always been interested in the human immunodeficiency virus since I have worked as a technician in a virology lab and as a member of the LGBT community and know the devastating damages of this virus. My mentor expressed his interest in STEM education and we thought it would be a great idea to develop a video game that teaches the cell biology of HIV, which is only a little covered in the cell biology curriculum. We found a team of computer scientists who were willing to take on this task with us!

            My long term career goal is to become a scientific researcher or educator. I probably will not work directly with infectious diseases but the lessons and skills I picked up as a laboratory technician will tremendously help me in graduate school. My field is neuroscience and it is a very interdisciplinary field where philosophy, psychology, biology, chemistry, computer science, and many other areas merge. Collaborating with a team of computer scientist will teach me how to communicate with other experts who are not in my field. In the process, I am also learning about game design and programming languages, which will be a great asset to my future career as a scientist. 

            My weeks contain many meetings with different people involved in the project and reading primary articles. Besides meeting with my mentor weekly, we also have frequent meetings with the computer science team to discuss what’s possible and feasible in terms of the game. In order to produce an accurate game, we also plan on meeting with HIV experts and educators from GMU. I also meet with my computer science partner Ed to exchange ideas and work on the project together. I also spend some time searching for open sources videos and images we can use to incorporate into the game, while reviewing primary research articles to provide the most up-to-date, accurate scientific information available on HIV.

            The past couple weeks were a little hard because we realized setbacks and hurdles in the development of the project. What we want in our heads versus what is really feasible for us to create within the given time seemed a little discouraging to me and Ed but thankfully with the encouragements from our mentors, the project is going strong!