Portfolio: HudsonAlpha iCell 3.1

For tomorrow's biotech workers, learning the basics of cell biology is critical. However, standardized tests show that students have difficulty comprehending and retaining the foundational concepts of cell biology. Why? Put simply, cells are just too small to reach out and touch. The solution? Put an interactive 3D cell directly in the hands of students.

The educational outreach group at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology and Digital Radiance created HudsonAlpha Cell and HudsonAlpha iCell, engaging and informative teaching tools that allow students and teachers to easily see and manipulate plant cells, animal cells, and bacteria cells. Users can zoom in on every major part of a cell in 3D, and captions provide multiple levels of information about each of the cell's components.

The HudsonAlpha Cell application prototype was developed for presentations at the institute. Its immersive detail came with a price, in that the application required a high-powered PC and an expensive 3-D rendering engine. Based on the same code foundation, Digital Radiance developed Cell 1.0 to run in any web browser—ideal for classroom computers, smartboards and home computers. Soon after, Digital Radiance developed iCell, a version of the app that runs on any iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.

HudsonAlpha Cell and iCell are like the Google Earth of cell biology, explains Ron Phillips, president of Digital Radiance. "Students engage with a tool like this. When they lock on, you have 30 seconds to a minute that their brains open up and you can just pour in the knowledge."

HudsonAlpha's education outreach division offers Cell and iCell to the public free of charge.