From Pipette to Palette: Bridging Science and Art

Left: An electron microscope image of a sea lamprey synapse. Center: An artist builds a model inspired by the image. Right: The final photo of the model, used as the cover image for a recent issue of Molecular Biology of the Cell. Credit: MBoC

At the invitation of the journal Molecular Biology of the Cell, MBL Senior Scientist Jennifer Morgan and colleague Jaqulin Wallace worked with artists Barry Whittaker and Eric Zeigler to reimagine a microscopy image of neural activity in the sea lamprey, their research organism for studying the neural defects of Parkinson’s Disease. The resulting collaboration was used as the cover art for the June 1, 2024 issue of the journal.

“Working with the artists on the project was truly a unique and rewarding experience,” Morgan said. “Data interpretation and visualization are extremely important aspects of science communication and scientific integrity.”

To create the cover image, the artists built and photographed a 3D model inspired by an electron microscope image of a sea lamprey synapse (the junction where neurons communicate with each other). They used colored paper and clear glass marbles and tested a variety of lighting styles to achieve the final effect.

Visualizing complex results or 3D imaging data can be particularly challenging, since most forms of research media are 2D, Morgan explained.

“This collaboration with the artists helped us to ‘bring the data to life’ in a way that is not normally possible, and it has sparked a creative process that I hope will continue in our future research projects,” she said.

Read more and check out the full paper at Molecular Biology of the Cell.

Source: From pipette to palette: Bridging science and art at MBoC | Molecular Biology of the Cell