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Scientific disciplines spanning biology, biochemistry, and biophysics involve the study of proteins and their functions. Visualization of protein structures represents a barrier to education and research in these disciplines for students who are blind or visually impaired. Here, we present a software plugin for readily producing variable-height tactile graphics of proteins using the free biomolecular visualization software Visual Molecular Dynamics (VMD) and protein structure data that is publicly available through the Protein Data Bank. Our method also supports interactive tactile visualization of proteins with VMD on electronic refreshable tactile display devices. Employing our method in an academic laboratory has enabled an undergraduate student who is blind to carry out research alongside her sighted peers. By making the study of protein structures accessible to students who are blind or visually impaired, we aim to promote diversity and inclusion in STEM education and research.
Shaw, Olivia R. and Hadden-Perilla, Jodi A.
"TactViz: A VMD Plugin for Tactile Visualization of Protein Structures,"
Journal of Science Education for Students with Disabilities: Vol. 23
1, Article 14.
Available at: https://repository.rit.edu/jsesd/vol23/iss1/14
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