Changing the way we teach

Using cutting edge AR and data visualisation techniques for Dr John Barrow at the University of Aberdeen
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Read time:
January 10, 2023

With PixelMax, anything is possible.

Whatever the problem, whatever the industry, we can help you find a bespoke virtual solution. Here, we look at how we worked alongside Dr John Barrow at the University of Aberdeen.

Who is Dr John Barrow and what’s his role at the University of Aberdeen?

Dr John Barrow is Dean for Entrepreneurship & Employability and a Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Aberdeen.

He is involved in teaching undergraduate students across the many different degree programmes in Medical Sciences. He predominantly teaches biochemistry and molecular biology subjects.

Like in many laboratories and lecture halls across academia, at Aberdeen the mechanics of teaching these abstract and intricate pathways was reliant on recommended, but one– dimensional reading, and experiments that although enlightening, can seem far removed from the molecular cycles and energy exchanges that power each of our hundreds of trillions of cells.

We worked alongside Dr John Barrow to develop a new and innovative way to teach undergraduates about glycolysis, the process that allows cells to metabolise sugar. 

What was the problem?

Dr John Barrow knew students find it difficult to grasp the complex and abstract nature of molecular interactions and structures within biochemistry and cellular biology.

When you're responsible for guiding, enthusing and empowering the next generation of scientists, those from a generation where cutting-edge technology is habitual, that is an issue.

Dr John Barrow wanted to make the abstract processes he was teaching more tangible. When you damage a muscle or your heart rate changes you can feel it, so it’s easier to understand. But, when  molecular processes happen, such as enzymes carrying out reactions, you can’t feel it, and yet they are critical to life. 

AR in action

What did Pixelmax create?

We brought augmented reality data visualisation into the classroom.

The solution PixelMax built used real scientific data to visualise molecular interactions of glucose being absorbed by cells and being broken down. 

Static visuals when teaching complex processes don't always do the job as it’s hard with static images to show a dynamic process in action. The PixelMax solution actually showed the 10 critical and complex steps involved in the glycolysis process, really bringing the process to life and making it much easier to understand. 

Trump cards were also used, acting as AR markers in class, so students could point their phone at it to see the process come to life. 

No more abstractions, instead students could interact with real, before-their-very-eyes simulations. Both the insulin and glycolytic metabolic pathways were modelled for students to understand the highly dynamic processes like never before.

See what we created in action here

Students could use AR markers to see processes come to life

What were the benefits?

Augmented reality data visualisation has changed how the next generation of biologists understand the core fundamentals of life at a molecular level.

It's hard to downplay the importance of that, but it's easy to see the potential of technology that is still in its infancy.

The lecture halls of the UK have a world-renowned tradition of exploring some ground-breaking territory, now Aberdeen University can claim another world first. 

This project was funded by the Physiological Society’s David Jordan Teaching Award and also featured in an award-winning paper at VISUAL2019.

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