The Nov. 14 episode of NOVA ScienceNOW, “What Will the Future Look Like?” featured a profile of Adrien Treuille, assistant professor of computer science and robotics, and EteRNA, his unique research project that taps online game play to explore RNA design.
Watch a video of the episode.
EteRNA was the first online game to tap the wisdom of the crowd to solve wet lab experimental problems. Players use the latest computer modeling programs to create possible solutions to RNA design challenges. The best of their virtual designs are then synthesized in a biochemistry lab at Stanford University and evaluated to see if they work in real life.
Treuille leads the project with Rhiju Das, an assistant professor of biochemistry at Stanford, and Jeehyung Lee, a Carnegie Mellon Ph.D. student in computer science.
The game already has engaged more than 30,000 citizen-scientists in the study of RNA design. Treuille says it has helped identify a number of people, some without formal science training, who display a strong aptitude for RNA design and are generating important scientific insights.
Filming of the ScienceNOW episode occurred this summer in California, where Treuille is spending a leave of absence. EteRNA was featured in the New York Times when it launched last year and was the subject of a Wired magazine article this summer.