About Us

Some of those who have made major contributions to the writing and design of these pages are:

Dr. David Epel – full professor of biology at Stanford University. He has been at Hopkins Marine Station since 1977. His areas of research include early events at fertilization in marine invertebrates and the effects of toxins and other environmental factors on the lives of marine organisms. Leader of the Sea Urchin Embryology project.
Dr. Henrik Kibak – assistant professor at California State University at Monterey Bay and a former post-doc in David Epel's lab. Strongly believes in the internet as a way for teachers to access current knowledge and skills. Originator of Sea Urchin Embryology project.
Chris Patton – staff associate at Hopkins Marine Station. Besides working in Professor Epel's lab he also does radiation & chemical safety, photography, electron microscopy, computer programming, illustration, animation, and repair. He took eight education classes at Chapman University to better prepare for the needs of this site. Principal writer for Sea Urchin Embryology project.
Pam Miller – mentor teacher at Seaside High School. She teaches Biology 1 and Biology 2 Honors and is the resource teacher for the Gifted and Talented Program. Her average class size is 31-34 and the school is very multicultural. Beside helping on this site, her classes are used to test the curriculum. One of two Presidential Awards for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching teachers for California in 2001.
Hopkins Marine Station – where development of this site took place.
Redesign and updates by the VirtualUrchin team.
I have steadily endeavored to keep my mind free, so as to give up any hypothesis, however much beloved -- and I cannot resist forming one on every subject -- as soon as facts are shown to be opposed to it.
— Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
The right to search for truth implies also a duty; one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true.
— Albert Einstein
As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours, and this we should do freely and generously.
— Benjamin Franklin

The National Science Education Standards point to a new direction for US schools. They emphasize a "new way of teaching and learning about science that reflects how science itself is done, emphasizing inquiry as a way of achieving knowledge and understanding about the world."

To accomplish this goal under the conditions of ever-accelerating expansion of society's technological knowledge base, there must be constant efficient communication between those teaching science and those practicing science. We must carefully choose how we teach our students these methods of inquiry. Furthermore, we must maintain the interest of, and be accessible to all students.

It is our vision, to connect the nation's high school science teachers to the country's top laboratories through a set of curricula designed with the National Science Education Standards in mind. Because the sea urchin gamete system is so effective at conveying the principles of reproduction and early development, AND because these eggs and sperm lend themselves so readily to experimentation and inquiry, we have begun to implement this vision using the laboratory of David Epel at Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station.

Also see Lesson Design Goals.

by Chris Patton

Major credit must be given to Dr. Daniel Mazia for sparking the interest in using animations to illustrate difficult concepts in cell biology. (died June 1996). I had been working with him and in his lab off and on over the last 16 years. I am a sort of "Jack of all trades" here at Hopkins and I helped in the lab setting up and recording results and in illustrating ideas. At first we used simple drawings. Later these led to 3D sculptures in clay and wire and also 3D drawings done with the help of an air brush. There was still an essential element missing, time.

In about 1990, Autodesk came out with some software called Animator. This allowed us to animate 2D drawings. It was a lot of work, often taking weeks of time, but the result was incredible. We immediately sought ways of transferring the animations to video tape and using these animations to help teach cell biology here at Hopkins. The students came back with comments like, "Now, I FINALLY understand how everything interacts in mitosis." We had something.

Another interesting effect was that though I am a working scientific technician, there is no way I am up to the understanding of Daniel Mazia's 60+ years of experience. So as I did the animations, they would suggest misunderstandings of what was happening, and also gaps in our knowledge. "Did it really work that way?". This led to more experiments and even greater understanding. Seeing the process in simplified form in an animation led to greater understanding of the entire process for the experimenter as well!

Dr. David Epel, professor here at Hopkins, a former graduate student of Dr. Mazia and one of my bosses, often helped with local schools in demonstrating sea urchin fertilization. A few years ago, David could not make it to a demonstration and asked Dr. Henrik Kibak from UCSC and a post-doc in our lab, to help. So, Henrik went to Pam Miller's class at Seaside High School and gave the lesson. He came back full of ideas and energy about how universities could help. We of course, could not go to every high school in the area much less the nation, so how best to spread the information. Henrik was very up on UNIX computer systems, email and the newly emerging WEB. He took this all in and started thinking. He talked with David, Pam and me and called NSF about grant possibilities. The idea was formed that the animations and knowledge in the Epel and Mazia labs should be shared as widely as possible and that the WEB might be the best way of doing this. The costs were almost free (no paper, postage, etc.). NSF was offering teaching grants for raising the level of knowledge / skills in high school instructors. This all came together in the NSF grant that is funding this effort.

A related effort in David's lab was based on the need for NASA to be able to fertilize eggs in space, aboard the space shuttle. It is impractical to carry live sea urchins to space. The eggs would only last a few hours outside the animal. With spring class students and others, a way was worked out using sterile sea water and certain antibiotics to keep the eggs up to a week. This also meant that it was no longer necessary to send sea urchins to high schools in Kansas or any where else (with the need for aquaria, etc.). We could now ship only eggs and sperm AND they could be used for an entire week.

In the mean time, I started taking classes at the Monterey satellite campus of Chapman University (Orange County, CA) on how to teach at the high school level. Through this process I started observing and helping in Pam's classrooms at Seaside High. Now the connection was complete from research lab to high school classroom and we were ready to begin to put all of this together.

We hope you like and can use the result. There will be a process of adjustment as we get feedback and continually learn. This is definitely meant to be a "living" web site with new ideas continually making their way in. Check in once in a while and see what has changed.