De-stress With These Online Science Games
You’re a life scientist – so chances are you’re good at problem solving, meticulous, dextrous, patient, used to spotting patterns, and conscientious.
But the other side of the coin is that you’re also likely to be stressed, working all hours, and need some way of winding down. Lab life can be hard work.
If you’re in need of unwinding, try some of the ever-growing array of on-line science games – have fun and de-stress at the same time as helping your colleagues solve problems involving genes, proteins and more…
Technically, it’s still lab work, so it’s still valuable – right?
Here are a few our favourites…
Image source: fold.it
This highly addictive game about protein folding has already helped elucidate the structure of an enzyme that causes an AIDS-like disease.
Twist and contort your protein into its most stable and highest-scoring shape. You’ll score for how well you do on packing the protein, hiding the hydrophobics, and clearing the clashes!
And whilst you’re having fun, relax in the knowledge that you’re also helping fellow researchers learn more about the shape and function of proteins, and contributing to cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and HIV/AIDS research.
And it really works: Foldit players have together ascertained the structure of a monkey virus protease, an enzyme that plays an important role in the ape equivalent of AIDS – and this in turn could play a part in the development of new drugs for humans. That’s pretty cool.
Get the game here: https://fold.it/portal/
Image source: online game play
Another hugely addictive and incredibly satisfying game, Phylo involves sliding coloured blocks around, trying to match the colours, and minimising any gaps.
But what you’re actually doing is aligning nucleotide sequences from different animal species – also known by the not quite so catchy name ‘multiple sequence alignment optimisation.’
By beating the par score generated by the computer, you can then submit your sequence alignment to the database – helping research into identifying disease-associated or mutated genes.
Play the game here: http://phylo.cs.mcgill.ca/
Image source: EteRNA game play
Try your hand at RNA design and structure prediction by playing EteRNA. In the game, you’ll place and arrange different nucleotides in order to obtain your target structure.
By experimentally testing how your solutions fold in the game, scientists can analyse the gap between current computational models and reality – providing valuable insights into RNA folding.
Play the game: http://www.eternagame.org/web/about/
Image source: Eyewire game play
The aim of Eyewire is to untangle puzzles and find new neurons. In doing so, you’ll be helping other scientists to collect information about how the brain is wired. Together, players have now mapped seven hundred REAL neurons!
When you start playing, you’re given a cube of tangled nerves. Your job is to tease the individual nerves out of this tangle and, slice by slice, build up their three-dimensional structure.
As you progress, your score is based on speed, skill, and accuracy – and timed tasks add both frustration (in a good way) and addiction!
There’s also a leaderboard to work your way up (appealing to those of us with a competitive nature), competitions with friends, and badges to be earned. Gain kudos by climbing up the ranks to Advanced Player, Scout, and eventually the prestigious Order of the Scythe.
Play the game: https://eyewire.org/explore