Science Students Produce Video Feature on Protein Synthesis

TAMPA, Fla. (April 1, 2008) – Nearly 300 undergraduate science students at the University of South Florida merge art and science in the production of a short video feature depicting protein synthesis to be shot on campus Saturday, April 5. The project is an updated version of a film created by Stanford University students before most of the USF students were even born.  The 1971 Stanford film “Protein Synthesis: An Epic on the Cellular Level,”is considered a cult classic in science and academic circles.

USF Microbiology Instructor Johnny El-Rady challenged his General Genetics class to make their mark by updating Stanford’s concept.  The class of nearly 300 students is working together to direct and produce a 10- to 12-minute feature titled “Lost in Translation,” which will be posted on YouTube as a modernized version of the 1971 clip. Students will reenact protein synthesis, a fundamental life process, using narration, choreography and props. The students also plan to display their Bull pride in the piece by featuring the university’s name and colors and a special appearance by USF’s mascot, Rocky the Bull.

A class of this size poses significant challenges to completing a project of this magnitude, so students were assigned to sub-committees, ranging from fundraising and advertising, to costumes and choreography and the coordination of the post-production celebratory cookout. Two project managers lead each group, and students’ friends and families have been enlisted to help. The project accounts for five percent of each student’s final course grade, as determined by individual work and the number of YouTube page hits, or views, logged by the end of the semester. 

In addition to student involvement, USF Theater Instructor David Frankel and Dance Instructor Merry Morris are assisting in the project. The USF Media Innovation Team from the Center for 21st Century Teaching Excellence is filming the video free of charge and several university offices, such as the Honors College and the College of Arts and Sciences, have provided financial support.  

Dr. El-Rady views the remake as a tribute to the 37-year-old original, but hopes that “Lost in Translation” will offer a modern, humorous take on protein synthesis for instructors and students. Science has certainly advanced since the 1970s, so Dr. El-Rady’s class also seeks to update the film’s scientific information by including new segments, one of which will explain how antibiotics work.  Just as science has made tremendous advances, so too has the technology behind the planning, production and promotion of the film. Dr. El-Rady’s students are utilizing online discussions, digital recording and editing, and web tools familiar to today’s students.

As a recognized faculty member both inside and outside the classroom, Dr. El-Rady believes in the value of group projects, especially those designed to be “of the students, by the students, [and] for the students.” His students, most of which are biology majors preparing for careers in medicine, nursing or health-related fields, are traditionally engaged in independent study and work throughout their academic careers. However, this project gives them the opportunity to work together on a unique, interdisciplinary project that reinforces class concepts.

Dr. El-Rady hopes the video feature will serve as an educational tool that promotes USF, the quality of its students and its interdisciplinary approach to learning. More importantly, this non-traditional project fosters a positive learning environment in which students apply their knowledge, skills and talents to accomplish a common goal. Although their work on this film affects their final course grade, the benefits of this experience will transcend their transcripts for years to come. 

Who:  Dr. Johnny El-Rady and his General Genetics class of nearly 300 undergraduate students

What:  “Lost in Translation,” a short video project about protein synthesis that builds on the 1971 Stanford classic, “Protein Synthesis: An Epic on a Cellular Level”

When:  Spring 2008 semester course; filming scheduled for Saturday, April 5, followed by celebratory cookout

Where:  Taping on location at the USF Soccer Stadium; the finished video will be posted on YouTube


The University of South Florida is among the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community engaged public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  It is one of Florida's top three research universities.  USF was awarded more than $300 million in research contracts and grants last year. The University offers 219 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine.  The University has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 45,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland.  USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.

– USF –