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Entering the Virtual World of Science
How virtual reality is enhancing cancer research and education
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The man with glasses of virtual reality. The man with glasses of virtual reality.
Entering the Virtual World of Science
How virtual reality is enhancing cancer research and education
“Arrow to move down"
Dr. Tavaré, director of the Irving Institute for Cancer Dynamics (IICD), is establishing a dedicated VR lab on Columbia’s Morningside campus. There, he and his fellow collaborators can analyze cancer data sets within an immersive 3D world. Utilizing the novel software Theia, developed by Suil Interactive as part of the Cancer Grand Challenges IMAXT consortium and diverse collaboration, the IICD is serving as a test site to visualize and explore cancer data in an entirely new, interactive way.
“VR provides a unique platform for viewing and exploring data. Imagine being able to place yourself inside the tumor; it presents a new approach to data analysis,” says Dr. Tavaré, who is also a member of the IMAXT consortium and professor of statistics and of biological science at Columbia.
“One interesting medical application of the software allows several clinicians to explore online the molecular annotation of the same tumor simultaneously, allowing for more detailed assessment of the data.” Theia is expected to be available soon from suil.ie.
While Dr. Tavaré and his team help to pilot this new paradigm in research, Dr. Brent Stockwell, professor of biological sciences, is using VR to transform the classroom. Since the fall of 2020, Dr. Stockwell has started teaching biochemistry classes using VR. This shift has been driven by an understanding that as learning opportunities have expanded online, universities need to engage students through teaching methods and opportunities they can’t get on their own. The immersive environment VR offers also allows students to focus on and interact with subject matter—such as 3D protein models relevant to the course—in ways that are challenging to accomplish in a traditional classroom.
As Dr. Stockwell puts it, “What we would like to provide is a much deeper learning experience, where you’re doing things that you really can’t do on your own. I think we can accomplish this through virtual reality, by interacting with groups of students together in VR in a way that requires them to totally engage with, immerse and interact with 3D models of molecules.”
Scientists and educators are just beginning to unlock the potential of VR, and it is exciting to see how this unfolds with members of the HICCC at the forefront.
As Dr. Tavaré shares, “VR has been around for a while, and we are just scratching the surface of how to apply it to cancer research. We’re excited to experiment with how this technology could lead to a deeper understanding of cancer biology, and applications in other areas of data science.”
Virtual reality (VR) is a rapidly emerging technology that enables users to experience an ultra-real environment in a simulated world. Two Cancer Center members, Drs. Simon Tavaré and Brent Stockwell, are exploring VR and applying the technology to research and education, offering unique insights into its potential impact in providing an immersive learning experience or investigating cancer biology. Take a look at how these researchers hope VR could lead to breakthroughs both in the lab and the classroom.
Virtual reality (VR) is a rapidly emerging technology that enables users to experience an ultra-real environment in a simulated world. Two Cancer Center members, Drs. Simon Tavaré and Brent Stockwell, are exploring VR and applying the technology to research and education, offering unique insights into its potential impact in providing an immersive learning experience or investigating cancer biology. Take a look at how these researchers hope VR could lead to breakthroughs both in the lab and the classroom.
Across Columbia University—and the world—adapting to the remote environment brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has meant embracing emerging technology. For HICCC members Simon Tavaré, PhD, and Brent Stockwell, PhD, that emerging technology is virtual reality (VR). VR utilizes immersive headsets and other hardware to allow users to actively enter and explore a digital environment, rather than passively observing that world on a screen. Drs. Tavaré and Stockwell are applying VR in fields that have yet to really reap the full benefits of this ever-evolving technology.
Dr. Tavaré, director of the Irving Institute for Cancer Dynamics (IICD), is establishing a dedicated VR lab on Columbia’s Morningside campus. There, he and his fellow collaborators can analyze cancer data sets within an immersive 3D world. Utilizing the novel software Theia, developed by Suil Interactive as part of the Cancer Grand Challenges IMAXT consortium and diverse collaboration, the IICD is serving as a test site to visualize and explore cancer data in an entirely new, interactive way.
“VR provides a unique platform for viewing and exploring data. Imagine being able to place yourself inside the tumor; it presents a new approach to data analysis,” says Dr. Tavaré, who is also a member of the IMAXT consortium and professor of statistics and of biological science at Columbia.
“One interesting medical application of the software allows several clinicians to explore online the molecular annotation of the same tumor simultaneously, allowing for more detailed assessment of the data.” Theia is expected to be available soon from suil.ie.
While Dr. Tavaré and his team help to pilot this new paradigm in research, Dr. Brent Stockwell, professor of biological sciences, is using VR to transform the classroom. Since the fall of 2020, Dr. Stockwell has started teaching biochemistry classes using VR. This shift has been driven by an understanding that as learning opportunities have expanded online, universities need to engage students through teaching methods and opportunities they can’t get on their own. The immersive environment VR offers also allows students to focus on and interact with subject matter—such as 3D protein models relevant to the course—in ways that are challenging to accomplish in a traditional classroom.
As Dr. Stockwell puts it, “What we would like to provide is a much deeper learning experience, where you’re doing things that you really can’t do on your own. I think we can accomplish this through virtual reality, by interacting with groups of students together in VR in a way that requires them to totally engage with, immerse and interact with 3D models of molecules.”
Scientists and educators are just beginning to unlock the potential of VR, and it is exciting to see how this unfolds with members of the HICCC at the forefront.
As Dr. Tavaré shares, “VR has been around for a while, and we are just scratching the surface of how to apply it to cancer research. We’re excited to experiment with how this technology could lead to a deeper understanding of cancer biology, and applications in other areas of data science.”
Across Columbia University—and the world—adapting to the remote environment brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has meant embracing emerging technology. For HICCC members Simon Tavaré, PhD, and Brent Stockwell, PhD, that emerging technology is virtual reality (VR). VR utilizes immersive headsets and other hardware to allow users to actively enter and explore a digital environment, rather than passively observing that world on a screen. Drs. Tavaré and Stockwell are applying VR in fields that have yet to really reap the full benefits of this ever-evolving technology.