Research & Insights

By Justin Tenuto, March 30, 2015

Is Science Just a Game? A Meetup with Dr. Adrienne Treuille

Humans spend 3 billion hours a week playing video games. And while some research has suggested that regular gaming can improve social skills, mood, and even health, these benefits bear out largely on a personal level. That is, unless we’re talking about Foldit.


Foldit, on its face, is a visual puzzle game. Only instead of trying to fit Tetris pieces together for the sheer (and endlessly frustrating) thrill of it, Foldit players were helping research scientists fold proteins. 

The reason for this is fairly simple: computers are bad at visual puzzles. Humans, on the other hand, are quite adept. By gamifying protein folding, the creators of the Foldit were able to get thousands of people working on complex problems to advance real world research, from deciphering the crystal structure of a simian AIDS retrovirus to redesigning a protein used in synthetic chemistry. 

This is really cool stuff and, of course, it’s right up our alley. That’s why we’re excited to host a meetup with Dr. Adrienne Treuille on Wednesday, April 15th, as he gives a talk on his experience designed Foldit and EteRNA, a similar game focusing not on protein but RNA structures. He’ll be talking about what he learned during the successes of both programs, where he sees citizen science going, and how games like these can help uncover hidden geniuses. 

Oh, and there’s beer. And pizza. And pizza and beer. You can register for free by heading to our Meetup page. We hope you stop by.