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Senior Dean Danner Collaborates with Science Faculty to Create Study App

Paige Roberts

Dean Danner and Patrick Lombardi

Dean Danner and Patrick Lombardi

A convenient online study tool is now available thanks to Dean Danner's senior project, Deano's Aminos, a web application designed for science students to learn the 20 different names and structures of amino acids.

Danner, a computer science major, wrote the code for the web app from scratch. Deano's Aminos is "one of the first web apps that I've built, so I did have to learn quite a few things on the fly as I went," he admitted. Danner will present a Lightning Talk on Deano’s Aminos on Thursday, April 28 at 3 p.m. in Phillips Library. His presentation is part of the annual SPARC Festival, which celebrates scholarship, performance, art, research and creativity.

The idea for Deano's Aminos originated with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Patrick Lombardi, Ph.D., who responded to a request to science faculty from Assistant Professor Scott Weiss on potential inspiration for computer science senior projects. "My instructions were very broad," said Lombardi. With his biochemistry class in mind, he thought "wouldn't this be an amazing tool for students to have...if they could test their understanding and gain some familiarity in a way that isn't rote memorization and staring at the textbook."

Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, are “sort of like the alphabet in this class," Lombardi said. Students who neglect to learn them will likely have difficulty keeping up as discussions progress and concepts build. Although the web app will prove especially useful for biochemistry students, Lombardi explained that the different study features of Deano's Aminos will be valuable to students in several science courses at the Mount.

The web app features both a quiz mode and a study mode. Time matters in quiz mode, where the user has 60 seconds to match the amino acid to the corresponding identifier, either the structure or the name. Speedier users receive more points for their correct answers. Study mode offers a classic flashcard format where clicking the flashcard reveals the correct answer, similar to Quizlet, a popular online study tool for students.

The order of the cards is randomized for each study session, forcing users to think on their feet.  Danner strategically prioritized simplicity in his design, he said, making it "very accessible and user-friendly." The web app is also available on mobile devices, in which the configuration was thoughtfully coded by Danner for ultimate compatibility and usability on a smaller screen.

Senior projects allow students to choose a specialized topic of their interest within their major and research or create in that realm. In Danner's case, "Professor Weiss made it so that we're allowed to create our own rubric based on our ideas, so it was nice, there was a lot of freedom," he explained.

The collaboration between Weiss, Lombardi and Danner demonstrates how Mount faculty work diligently to utilize students' skills to create impactful projects. Lombardi expressed his gratitude for Danner's abilities, "I could've never done this, but this is perfect. It's interesting to see [when] working with different students, the different visions, the different priorities that will be reflected in their projects and having the freedom to decide 'this is how I want to do it,” Lombardi reflected.

Lombardi sees himself using the application frequently in his classes, asking students to spend the first few minutes of class trying to beat their previous quiz score on Deano's Aminos. "I hope it’s used for years after I'm gone," Danner said.

Upon graduation in May, Danner plans to start a position as a cyber software engineer at Peraton, a technology company based in Herndon, Virginia.

Paige Roberts