Solve problems by playing games

Dr. Khatib shows students how to design games with a purpose.

Firas Khatib

While you may play video games to chill, this UMass Dartmouth professor shows his students how their games can have a much bigger purpose.

“All over the world, citizen scientists are working together to solve scientific puzzles online,” said Firas Khatib, Assistant Professor of Computer and Information Science at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. “Bioinformatics is a growing field, where people use computers to solve real problems.”

In his undergraduate Computer Game Design course, Dr. Khatib shows students how to design these “games with a purpose.” He is the lead scientist with Foldit, a free online computer game run by academic research scientists where people from all over the world can collaborate to solve problems for science. They recently posted a puzzle to search for antiviral proteins to combat COVID-19. “It’s a place where citizen scientists can intelligently share and disseminate ideas,” he said. “Experts always think they know everything, but difficult problems need everyone to bring their expertise to the table and cooperate to come up with really big solutions.” 

Dr. Khatib was one of the early scientists to work on Foldit at the University of Washington, and as he and his colleagues completed their studies and moved on they have continued to work together online. This continuing research and collaboration feeds his classroom teaching. “As students learn how to program games, add sound and visual effects, write stories and plots – all the elements necessary for a good game – the science starts to come and their work can make a difference.” 



Departments : Directory Computer and Information Science Dept, College of Engineering

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