The Biological Science is an important branch of Science which deals with the study and understanding of living organisms at various scales. The origin of this goes to the time humans changed from hunter-gatherer stage to settled life. In fact, domestication of animals was an important step towards understanding various aspects of animals and this further lead to human curiosity to unravel the nature's beautiful enigmas. The beginning of renaissance in Europe was also the beginning of renaissance in various fields of natural sciences. The first major progress in the development of Biological Science was the formulation of Binomial Nomenclature by Carl Linnaeus, which paved the way for other biologists to understand other biological aspects. In 17th and 18th century, biologists took more interest in basic aspects of biological sciences, including classification, taxonomy and other morphological aspects of organisms. However, during the 19th and 20th century there was a tendency among newly emerging industrial nations to unravel the benefits of various organisms and manipulate the biological organisms for human benefit. So, the previous scientific approach of understanding biological organisms changed into a new debate whether we should study basic or applied aspects of biological organisms. The so called 'the Biological Science Identity crisis' kept biologists in dilemma whether they should focus on traditional aspects or move on to unravel applied and beneficial aspects of organisms. In recent years there has been tremendous progress in science and technology, and various fields of science have transformed according to new needs and demands. The IT is providing new platform for various branches of Arts and Science to innovate and transform according to modern lines. It is also essential to introduce new technologies to make various educational branches more applied and innovative. According to Cheney (2003), "Understanding the role of IT for science is important because of the central role of science in today's information society".
As is rightly said that learning something new can be a fun and can increase innate curiosities among budding learners. By integrating specific features of IT with the general curriculum, Universities, Colleges and Schools can take biological science to a new level. In the present article, I will discuss the benefits of various IT features that could be useful for young biologists who aspire to achieve extra-ordinary things in science.
Information web resources and learning packages:
There are huge number of web sites which can be used for understanding core concepts of biology. Although student are aware about major websites, but major issue faced by the students while retrieving information is authenticity of these websites. It is pertinent to mention that all web sources can't be trusted and therefore only authentic biology websites should be used for obtaining relevant information. Three criteria should be followed while selecting a science website which include, the affiliation of website, its popularity and the people who operate it. For example, National Geography Website, Discovery Website and BBC/Science are very popular web resources that provides authentic information. In the same way 'The Howard Hughes Medical Institute lectures' are available on 'http://www.hhmi.org/lectures/' provides a platform for budding students to take up a career in biology. The students who are interested in authentic biology website should get more information on www.tifr.res.in. In addition, computer learning packages in the form of tutorials and revision material is available on various websites. These IT based packages can offer huge opportunity for non-interactive and interactive student centered learning processes.
Virtual Technology (VT):The virtual technology or virtual life is another marvel of science which is considered as second life. A VT is a simulated computer based technology that has the potential to carry out wonderful tasks which otherwise needs great effort and cost. For example, certain exhaustive practical's such as carrying out morphometry of water bodies can be easily demonstrated by using virtual simulation technology. In the same way field trips to distant areas which need funding and scheduling can be easily carried by using specific web domains. In recent times, Discovery Education Website has started virtual field trip page which can provide opportunity to students to visit most amazing places of world without physically visiting to those places. In the same way Google has also started Google Expedition which allows students to go for virtual field trips and explore unknown.
Virtual laboratories: One of the major issues faced by the biology student at lower and higher level is the lack of infrastructure and expertise in carrying out basic life science experiments. Virtual laboratories (VL) are solution for such issues as they provide an interactive and conducive environment for conducting simulated lab experiments. The VL is considered as a playground for experiments and is highly recommended when experimental process is very slow and complex. In addition, VL is highly beneficial for experiments involving health risk and also in those learning activities which require modelling. There are number of online authentic projects which universities and colleges can use free of cost. The Go-Lab online project is a major initiative that provides number of opportunities for buddings science students which include remote laboratories, virtual experiments and other data sets. The Biology Labs is a best web repository for life science students to understand various experiments and core concepts of genetics, microscopy and other biological concepts. There are number of elite international universities which provide facility of VL's and virtual field trips for students and faculty.
Videoconferencing and tele-collaborative projects: At present we are witnessing globalization of education and IT can play an important role to spread education to every nook and corner of world. The videoconferencing and tele-collaborative projects are meant for both local and global communities to take advantage of renowned experts which otherwise is impossible under normal conditions. The best features of videoconferencing and tele-collaborative projects is that you can polish your ideas and express them before the international audience without visiting there.
Scope IT in molecular biology
The information technology has huge scope in molecular biology based on the fact that complex molecular phenomenon is difficult to understand in a conventional way. Various instrument which are being used in molecular laboratories are IT-aided that are routinely being used to collect data and other information. In last twenty years, internet databases for genomes and proteins have provided best platform for students and researchers to get firsthand information about various biomolecules. The modelling and simulation techniques are being routinely used to explain complex molecular processes. In addition, IT has been rapid means to share science among researchers having overlapping research interests and also aid scientific collaboration.
In conclusion, it is important to integrate biological sciences with the latest technological trends. Information technology has huge scope to innovate biological sciences according to modern lines.
Dr. Ummer Rashid Zargar is SERB-DST Fast Track Fellow, Department of Zoology, CUK, Sonwar Campus.