Proteins as Pictures

How do you draw something you can’t see? You use your imagination, of course. Maja Klevanski begins with ribbon diagrams of proteins as determined by techniques like x-ray crystallography, with their helices, sheets and noodly loops suspended there like frozen spaghetti. Using digital imaging software, she rotates them until a familiar form is suggested. Is it a butterfly? A goat? Or a mother bear with its baby?

Using a combination of pure whimsy and nods to the protein’s actual function, she adds lines and shading until the protein takes on a new life. Wonderful stuff.

Robert Krulwich has more musings on the history of drawing proteins at NPR.


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