Scientific Visualization Research


Prof. Marc Dryer - Research Profile

Associate Professor, Teaching Stream
Biomedical Communications Graduate Program (MScBMC)
Institute of Medical Science, Faculty of Medicine
University of Toronto

Associate Chair, Undergraduate
Department of Biology
University of Toronto Mississauga

Animation in Undergraduate Biology Education

All aspects of my research concern scientific education through visualization. Currently, the focus of this research is testing animation as a tool in undergraduate education, and the use of digital modelling techniques in forensic facial approximation.

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Threshold Concepts in Biology and Genetics

Many students hold misconceptions about some ideas and processes in biological science that are foundational to later learning. Misunderstanding these threshold concepts is a barrier to advancement to later learning. By targeting these misconceptions with intensive and creative teaching and learning strategies, it is hoped that students will build the knowledge necessary to advance. We have been investigating the way in which animation may be a useful tool to teach these concepts, and combined with active learning elements, allow students to identify their own misconceptions, while providing them with the material needed to correct them.

To this end, in collaboration with Prof. Fiona Rawle (UTM Biology), we have created animations targeting two misconceptions in genetics education: the structure of chromosomes, and the distinction between genes and alleles. Misunderstanding here prevents students from easily grasping topics that build from this knowledge. The animation below was created to address these topics and was shown to 800 undergraduate biology students in various formats: Some groups were shown the animation without interruptions; others were shown the animation with questions interspersed; others were shown the animation with questions and answers interspersed; others were not shown the animation. All groups received pre- and post-tests to gauge their understanding of core issues. The results will be published shortly.

BMC student Masters Research Projects - animation in science education

I supervise Biomedical Communications graduate student Masters Research Projects (MRP). MRP committees include a scientific content advisor, a BMC supervisor, and a second member of the BMC faculty. Through collaboration with the members of this group the student develops visual media to be used in some aspect of science education or communication. This involves an examination of the needs of the audience, developing a deep understanding of the scientific material, and learning the technology needed to create the media. Typically my projects involve the creation of 3D or 2D animated media.

Animation in Genetics Education

Through the support of the U of T Provost’s Instructional Technology Innovation Fund (ITIF), and in collaboration with Prof. Maria Papaconstantinou (U of T Human Biology), Prof. Michael Corrin (U of T BMC), and Prof. Fiona Rawle (UTM Biology), a number of animations on threshold topics in genetics education have been created. See below.

The Point of Ploidy - Ryan Park MScBMC 2018


Understanding Genetics: Crossing Over and Linked Alleles - Maiko Matsuda 2018