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Accelerating into its second year of operation, the YURT (Brown University's latest 3D virtual reality environment) is adding another entry to the list of fields that have benefited from its capabilities: embryonic developmental biology. Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR, a local branch of the National Science Foundation's experimental program to stimulate competitive research, reports on the work of Brown University student Beatrice Steinert, who set out to document and study the embryonic developmental stages of the slipper snail.
Beginning her research with no preconceptions of what she might find, Beatrice (guided by Professor Kristi Wharton, who had used the YURT's predecessor, the CAVE) sought out the Yurt's "mind-blowing" tools, using it to manipulate a virtual embryo in 3D: flying over it, rotating it, and even stepping inside.
“Visualizing embryos in the YURT allows you to more intuitively understand what is going on," she says, "how cells in the embryo are arranged, and to see things you might not be able to otherwise. And, you can compare models to see how cells have moved or what an experimental manipulation has changed...With a microscope, there is a barrier between you and the embryo. In the YURT, you can just pick it up and turn it around and look."
Beatrice mentions that she's also interested in the Yurt's possibilities in teaching developmental biology due to the highly visual and spatial nature of the field and the processes through which embryos develop.
The full article is available here.
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