Since I’m a scientist, I figured I should at least post a little about some of the science that goes on at Stanford. Today’s inaugural installment is about Folding at Home. I’m a little biased because the faculty member is part of my PhD program and one of my best friends was a graduate student in his lab. But the concept is really cool and simple: use distributed computing to perform biological computations to study protein folding that were previously inaccessible.
If you’re not a biologist you might be wondering why we should care about protein folding. There is some fundamental biological principles that we can learn, but there are important clinical implications. Each gene has information that encodes a specific protein. In order for proteins to perform their proper function, they adopt a very specific three dimensional structure. That is, they “fold” to a specific shape that allows them to carry out their job. When proteins “misfold”, they can’t carry out their function and this can lead to serious problems. By understanding what goes wrong, we can begin to figure out how to go about fixing problems.
You can find out more at the Folding at Home website. You can help out the effort by downloading the software which runs in the background while you’re sleeping or out having a drink.
Update: If you want to contribute to my F@H team, I’m number 72156. I just started it a few days ago so I’m way behind.