Understanding the structural and functional relationships of proteins is an important concept of biology. Therefore, we had Gordon State College students in the biochemistry class of spring 2019 apply and evaluate a hands-on bioinformatics activity, using the free bioinformatics program, RasMol. This module was designed to help students understand the relationships of a protein to a specific disease, and in this paper, we have chosen to discuss apolipoprotein E (APOE) relationships to Alzheimer’s disease since some of the students had an interest in neurobiochemistry.
During the learning module, students were asked to identify structural differences among the APOE isoforms. Overall, 20 out of 27 students (74.1%) evaluated the instructional value of the RasMol program positively after being surveyed. Student feedback also suggested they learned more about the molecular structure of APOE using RasMol. Therefore, utilization of free computer bioinformatics activities encourages students to apply logical, real-world solutions to biological problems.