Eric Martz

Informal Biographical Sketch (November 1997)

Eric Martz, a Professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has recently switched the focus of his work to educational molecular visualization. For 20-some years, he did research on cell interactions and immunology, during which he defined the early steps in the interactions of cytotoxic T lymphocyte "killer cells" with target cells, was codiscoverer of an important leukocyte integrin adhesion molecule (LFA-1), and advanced iconoclastic notions about how "killer cells" control virus infections. In early 1995, he became fascinated with the educational potential of RasMol, and subsequently of Chime. (These are free programs for personal computers which display detailed structures of large biological molecules, such as proteins and DNA, in color and 3D.) He founded the RasMol email list, and built a web site replete with resources for teachers (http://www.umass.edu/microbio/rasmol). During its two years of existence, this web site has sent over two million files to over 100,000 people from 90-some countries. Martz pioneered educational RasMol "movie" scripting, and subsequently developed novel educational presentation formats with Chime. These include illustrations for lectures (linear) and sites for interactive, self-paced student exploration (nonlinear). In early 1997, Martz was awarded a grant from the Division of Undergraduate Education of the National Science Foundation, with which support he gives workshops to enable college faculty to incorporate molecular visualization into their teaching. "As the offspring of artist-parents, I have always longed to create beauty as well as truth", says Martz. "RasMol and Chime enable me to do both".


RasMol was created by Roger Sayle while he was an undergraduate and then a PhD student in the UK. Chime, derived in part from RasMol, was created by Tim Maffett of MDL Information Systems, Inc.