Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rosetta@home

You can be an accountant, a computer engineer, a lawyer or any of the professions under the sun and still contribute to research in cancer, malaria, HIV and Alzheimer's disease. You don't have to make any monetary contributions; all you need is a relatively new computer (purchased within the last 5 years), a broadband internet connection, a gigabyte or more of RAM and updated graphic card drivers.

Interested? Read on.
The Rosetta@home program tests numerous proteins and see how proteins fold, interact with one another and in some cases, also tests how chemical compounds (the precursor of the next potential drug) docks with its target protein. It also aims to determine the native structure of a protein by determining the lowest associated energy. Baker's lab here shows how running a simple program and sharing some of the lab's work load on your personal computer will help in the treatment of the above mentioned diseases!



To get started and to help in the acceleration of scientific progress, we need to install the BOINC program available for Windows, Mac OSX and forl Linux distributions like Mint, Ubuntu, Fedora and Debian. Click here to install the client or via the Software Manager in your distribution (is available in Mint 11 'Katya')
After installation, run the BOINC client and choose a project from the given list. There are many projects available which range from biology (like Rosetta@home), cryptography (Enigma@home), cosmology (Einstein@home) and astrobiology (SETI@home). Choose Rosetta@home and register with a valid working e-mail address (not necessarily your primary address if you're concerned about privacy or security). Then you will be linked to the site to complete registration, where you have to mention a handle name and the country you're from. You can also make it more fun and productive by joining a team. There are many universities and private organisations with whom you can pool your data and send it to the labs. I joined Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.
You can then tweak the client's settings and define how many megabytes or gigabytes of hard disk space you're willing to spare your project(s), the hours you want the program to work between and the amount of so forth. Or you can simply allow it to run in the background all the time and tweak the values such that it does not hinder your computing experience. And the client will automatically upload the results of the processed data, so you don't have to worry on that front.

Helping mankind won't cost you a pie. Take the initial effort. Tell your friends. Install it on your unsuspecting grandparent's old computer. The more people, the better!

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