Human-Computer Interaction

Dynamic Strands in VR – an application for chromosome separation in cell division as a teaching tool for biology students


This call for a thesis or project is open for the following modules:
If you are interested, please get in touch with the primary contact person listed below.

Background

Life is defined by cell division: a complex process that ensures the correct distribution of the chromosomes to the two daughter cells. If cell division goes wrong, the cell will die, or, in the worst case, become cancerous. When a cell divides, it first duplicates its DNA content. Later on, the DNA condenses into visible X-shaped chromosomes that consist of two identical chromatids, still hold tightly together. In a cell cycle phase called metaphase, these X-shaped, condensed chromosomes align to the middle of the cell and get attached to rope-like structures: the microtubules of the spindle apparatus (see Figure). Once all chromosomes are correctly attached, the connections between the two chromatids break. This is the signal for three different sets of microtubules to change their lengths (a process called depolymerization or polymerization) and move the two chromatids to the opposite poles of the cell. Finally, the cell divides.

The aim of this project is to develop a virtual reality (VR) application for biology students at bachelor level that will help them to understand the cell cycle. The application will be used as part of a practical, four-week class that is run each October.

The application will consist of two parts. In the first part, students will engage in an interactive assembly of a metaphase cell, using available components, such as chromosomes, microtubules, spindle poles. Once everything is correctly constructed, they will see a small simulation of the cell division as a reward. The software can be tested on “real” biology students in October 2024.

Tasks

This project will focus on the following tasks:

Prerequisites


Contact Persons at the University Würzburg

Sarah Hofmann (Primary Contact Person)
Games Engineering, Universität Würzburg
sarah.hofmann@uni-wuerzburg.de

Prof. Dr. Sebastian von Mammen
Games Engineering, Universität Würzburg
sebastian.von.mammen@uni-wuerzburg.de

Prof. Dr. Susanne Kramer (Primary Contact Person)
Lehrstuhl für Zell- und Entwicklungsbiologie, Universität Würzburg
susanne.kramer@uni-wuerzburg.de

Prof. Dr. Christian Janzen (Primary Contact Person)
Lehrstuhl für Zell- und Entwicklungsbiologie, Universität Würzburg
christian.janzen@uni-wuerzburg.de

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