My MRP Research

Process and Progress

About Stochastic

As we continue to learn and discover, we have grown to appreciate how messy and complex the scientific world is. With that in mind, we need to consider how we teach 21st century science in all of its great complexity. My MRP project is part of a series of research projects with the Science Visualization Lab at the University of Toronto. I am working to create a non-linear visualization tool that engages students in teaching themselves. The aim is to allow undergraduate students to explore and integrate molecular data in a meaningful way, much like actual laboratory research. A key component of the tool will be providing the ability to explore and revisit hypotheses for deep understanding of problems, and not just the actual answer itself. I will be using a combination of software such as Molecular Maya, Photoshop, and the Unity Game Engine to complete this project. Please take a read below to learn more about my process, learning moments, and progress along the way. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Dr. Jodie Jenkinson | BA, MScBMC, PhD
  • Biomedical Communications, University of Toronto
  • Dr. Gael McGill | BA, PhD
  • Director of Molecular Visualization
  • Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology
  • Harvard Medical School
  • Professor Michael Corrin | BFA, BA, Hons BSc, MScBMC
  • Biomedical Communications, University of Toronto

Final Project for User Testing

The research we are conducting is to determine the effectiveness of the inquiry based visual learning tool Stochastic, on conceptual learning of molecular processes. The tool includes inherent misconceptions for students to work through - and it is hypothesized that students will have these misconceptions be directly contradicted by the correct source information provided, in order to build corrected mental models of random molecular processes. The study will be conducted with students from a second year biology course at the University of Toronto. Students will be assessed with pretests and posttest questions before and after interaction with the tool. The video demonstrates a sample interaction with the tool, created using Moelcular Maya, Illustrator, and Unity 3D. It's almost time to run the study!

Image of GUI elements

GUI Redesign

Further edits were made to the GUI to make it more intuitive to users. It also allows users to more easily compare their experimental parameters with source information provided.

Image Of GUI elements

GUI Redesign

At this point I needed to further nail the GUI and overall design feel of the project. I implemented changes based on feedback and knowledge gathered from the first round of user testing. The molecules placed in the scene are currently flat vectors, but the final product will employ 3D molecules.

User Testing Round 1 and report

A lot of information was gathered from observing users during this first round of testing. Changes will be made to the evaluation questions to better fit the objectives of the module. The design will also be further refined to make navigation clearer, such as the use of tabs and highlighting of sections. To also further suggest the idea of crowding and constant movemement, the module will now be in 3D rather than 2D space.

Prototype 1

There were many reasons for creating this initial prototype. The first was to increase my comfort level with working in Unity. The second was to test whether the pages connected in a logical sense when being built. And the final and most important reason was to test the design and evaluation questions in user testing. Since it was a quick initial testing, the prototype was built in wireframe style.

Storyboard Reiteration

Wireframe Revamped

After some further informal testing and feedback from peers, more changes were made. I decided to step back and use wireframes to more quickly iterate and make changes. The changes implemented are to provide greater context to users, so the navigation would be seamless and intuitive.

Storyboard Reiteration

Storyboard Reiteration

It was nice to have the winter break to take a step back from the project. Coming back to it after two weeks gave me some fresh perspective on areas that could be improved. I reiterated the initial storyboard I had created, using the feedback from classmates and faculty at the BMC winter critique. I am happy with the cleaner design, and have more ideas for further tweaks. It's important to get the design just right for this project so it is intuitive and not distracting to the learning process.

Photo of Melissa from Winter Critique

Winter Critique

Another semester has come and gone, it's hard to believe! It's great to see what everyone has produced in the past few months and how much we've all grown. It was also a great opportunity to recieve feedback on my projects from peers and faulty who had not seen them previously. There is so much support and expertise to gain from in the BMC program - I am really grateful. I am trying my best to absorb as much of it as I can while I am here.

Proof of Concept

I created this proof of concept using Gamemaker to demonstrate some of the molecular movements, the button capabilities and page transitions. It's not finalized and I have some changes to make to the design, but it's great to see it in action. I used a combination of drag and drop components and script to create this. While this is nowhere near as complex as the final project will be, it provided a great base in 'pseudocode' to get me thinking about how the various components will be interacting with one another.

Image of MRP Storyboard


I have created a storyboard (the first of many I presume), that walks through the user interaction with Stochastic. I included one of the 35 pages in the image to the left. It really takes the initial static designs and allows you to think about how various components interact with each other. It is still far from perfect at this stage but I can see my ideas starting to mould into something tangible.