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Kristin L. Borowicz

Project Topic / Abstract:

“Using Computer-based, Three-dimensional Reconstruction to Enhance Student Comprehension of Plant Anatomy”

Many students enrolled in structurally oriented biology courses have difficulty three-dimensionally conceptualizing the internal ultrastructure/anatomy of cells/organs. To enhance student ability to comprehend such structures, we have introduced into a split-level undergraduate/graduate Plant Anatomy course the utilization of a DOS-based computer program that three-dimensionally reconstructs biological structures (HVEM-3D, version 1.2 Ð Laboratory for High Voltage Electron Microscopy; Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology; Boulder, Colorado 80309). Serial sections of an organ are digitally input into the program using a digitizing tablet connected to a microcomputer. These sections are then automatically aligned, thus, creating a graphic three-dimensional reconstruction of the organ in question. To further student comprehension of internal anatomy, the reconstruction can be examined at different rotational angles, and specific components can be emphasized or de-emphasized in order to highlight various characteristics. Moreover, the program affords the opportunity to modify color selection, contour line width, outline filling, and section thickness. The computer-generated reconstruction can also be output to a printer for use in laboratory reports, video-taped as a ‘movie’ by rotating the reconstruction around X, Y, and Z axes, or photographed for presentation and/or publication. Several reconstructions that depict the gross anatomy of a Coleus plant will be demonstrated.


1996    Missouri Academy of Science (Springfield, MO)