Ruben S. Thormodsæter 1


What is your background? Where are you from? What do you study? What are you most interested in, scientifically?

I’m a 24-year-old man from Kristiansand, Norway, and am currently studying to become a teacher in biology and mathematics at University in Bergen. Prior to that, I took a one-year study in History, and studied Bioinformatics for one year.
I would say my biggest interests scientifically lies in the understanding of how species and organisms interact, cooperate, compete, and simply put; why and how they can exist. Evolution, behavior and global history are key words for me.

Give us a brief summary of your internship project. What is the study system? Primary research questions? With whom are you working?

The task I was given during my summer internship was to create a creative game-like alternative for one of the labs in the course “Biology 1003” at The University of Minnesota. The requirements for the product was split in three parts. First and foremost, it was meant to be focused on the biodiversity of sex. Secondly, it was intended to be reachable online. Lastly, there had to be a certain level of entertainment involved. I’m currently working with Sehoya Cotner, Kristina Prescott and Samantha Brandt.

My role was to be the creator of this “game”. I was asked to come up with the idea, design the “game”, and help create it.
I found this a good challenge, where I needed to use my skills in both biology and pedagogy, it was also fun to use my nerdy, childish and playful skills as well.

What were your specific goals for the upcoming internship? These can be both scientific and personal. Are you meeting, or did you (if the internship is complete) accomplish your goals? Please explain with specific examples if possible.

My goal were to create something that the students can have fun with. I pictured something that was different from the ordinary, and something that they could learn from without feeling that it was a burden or a stressful task.

What we created was an “Escape room”-esque game, but online. An escape room is a set of puzzles placed inside a room, that you have to solve in order to win, or “escape”. Because this was going to be online, we couldn’t make an actual room. We instead used a text based game design, mixed with html coding to create a game where the player has to figure out multiple puzzles in order to win. All of the puzzles where themed around “Biodiversity of sex”, and the idea was that the player would learn something while exploring and solving the puzzles.

The game need testing, and polishing along the way, but I have a good feeling that my goals have been accomplished, and that the students will enjoy this game when the semester starts.

What skills or knowledge from your prior experience and education did you find useful during this internship? Did you develop any new skills or knowledge? Please explain.

My programming skills from previous studies and jobs came in handy when we decided to use html and other languages to create the puzzles. It was also easier to create something biology themed when I did not have to read up on everything, but could use things I already knew from before.

And I certainly learned something new in regards to working with other people in a team, and how to structure a workday around creating something new. It was a great challenge, which I learned a lot from.

How has the COVID19 pandemic altered your plans or your experience during this internship?

I would perhaps say that the pandemic assisted me in getting the internship. The task needed to be done as the actual lab had to be canceled. Secondly, the work had to be remote, and therefore, even a Norwegian could work for a university in the US!
The whole experience have been really good, and I have met (online) so many interesting, intelligent and great people during this internship. To work with Cotner and her team has been one of the best things that happened to me this summer, and I hope to work with them in the future as well.


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  • Vigdis

    I’m glad to hear this worked out so well, Ruben! The pandemic was, indeed, what inspired and necessated ut transition to (also) online internships, but I have a feeling we’ll continue doing them in the future! Good luck with finalizing and testing the game – I’d really like to try it out here in Bergen too, sometime!