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U Genetic Science Learning Center Named Among Top 50 Web Sites for Second Year in a Row


For the second year in a row, the University of Utah Genetic Science Learning Center Web site has been named one of the 50 best science and technology Web sites by Scientific American magazine online. The Web site also was rated as one of the top five in health and medicine.

In announcing its Science and Technology Web Awards on Oct. 4, the magazine identified five winning sites in 10 categories, for a total of 50. The Genetic Science Learning Center site was singled out for the "superb design, excellent graphics, and jargon-free text" of its "Stem Cells in the Spotlight" section.

"One of the most hotly contested issues on the campaign trail this year gets a thorough unpacking at the University of Utah's top-notch stem cell site. Brush up on the fundamentals of the process with the animated intro, 'What Is a Stem Cell?'; learn about the various ways in which scientists currently use the cells in their searches for cures to such diseases as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's and how they might employ them in the future; and even delve in to the moral, religious and ethical debate surrounding lab access to 'the body's building blocks,' the magazine writes.

Learning center staff worked with Utah middle and high school biology teachers and University of Utah researchers to plan content for "Stem Cells in the Spotlight," according to Jennifer Logan, Ph.D., the center's co-director. "Our team works hard to help people understand what's going on in the world of genetics and bioscience research," Logan said. "Recognition from Scientific American two years in a row is a true sign of success."

Raymond F. Gesteland, Ph.D., University vice president for research and distinguished professor of human genetics, said being named a top 50 Web site two years in a row is a remarkable achievement that helps the Genetic Science Learning Center reach out to young students.

"We are really proud of the staff who put together a Web site that is rated one of the best, even among many larger organizations throughout the country," Gesteland said. "Science education has to start young and the Genetic Science Learning Center Web site is a tremendous tool for reaching out to students and teachers."

The Web site ( receives more than 50,000 visits a week during the academic year, with visitors from more than 100 countries, according to Logan. Many people go to the site to answer basic questions, such as "What is DNA?" But they and other visitors also can try interactive modules on more complex subjects, such as one that lets them clone a mouse in cyberspace. One of the goals of the Web site was to make science fun and easy to understand, according to Logan.

"Our site moves. It makes noise--and you might even find out something useful while you're there," she said.

U of U employees who worked on the Web site and "Stem Cells in the Spotlight" include Logan; senior Web architect Kevin Pompei; artist Harmony Starr; education specialist Molly Malone; center co-director Louisa Stark; and former postdoctoral fellow Mel Limson.

"Stem Cells in the Spotlight" and other genome science sections of the Genetic Science Learning Center's Web site are funded by a five-year Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) and an Administrative Supplement for stem cell education from the National Center for Research Resources, National Institutes of Health. Funding for other sections of the Web site comes from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, along with start-up support from the Harold R. Burton Foundation in Utah.

The Genetic Science Learning Center is one of seven organizations whose Web site was honored this year as well as last. Other winners the past two years include the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and PBS.