Archives for posts with tag: biology

Often in textbooks proteins and molecules are rendered in a way which makes them look made of colorful plastic.  Would love to do an installation of some kids room with instead of toys, hundreds of 3D printed proteins in numerous colors, strewn about floor in a complete mess.  The problem with plastic appearance is that it’s hard and static- ideally proteins would be represented in a wobbly material.  Anyway, I wanted to put my flesh colored filament to good use so I printed some biological stuff, all models via


^I love the way the flesh filament looks as your peeling away support material..


^mouse retina neuron from NIH 3dprint, data by


Some nuclear pores.  Below: nuclear pores on an SEM image I took, 100,000x magnification.



^GFP and clathrin cage.  GFP i can never get to print well- need dissolvable support.  Clathrin is a protein which assembles into cages around vesicles forming at the cell membrane, helps with getting things where they need to go in the cell.  Below: scanning electron micrograph of clathrin cage.  SEM processing adds 2nm of gold to the surface which can dull the details of very very small things.  The image below is starting to get to the limit of that microscope- 200,000x magnification (each tick mark is 20nm).


Laser cutting protein cutouts out of acrylic fresnel lenses has proved less then ideal- the proteins are a bit small and also caused a lot of scorch marks which cloud the transparency.  Would need to make the proteins much bigger to work in acrylic.  On the upside, the thin pvc lenses are much less hard to cut w/ scissors then I remember.


But at least there are awesome stickers:


I could also put the protein stickers on polarizing film instead.  Doing so could create some neat effects as they occlude each other (imagine the below pic but with hundreds).  Only downside is that polarizers make things dimmer.


I’m going to be posting more ideas and experiments in the fabrication/sculpture realm here, as it may contribute to my work in this class, though they may not directly have anything electronic (but maybe later).  It’s my first term in the DCRL and I’m in constant discovery mode.

For now: my first project: (different then a week ago) cytoplasm lamp! (or cytoplasm interactive sculpture)

I am quite interested in how crazy crowded the cytoplasm of a cell is vs. how it is usually shown:


^saddest looking cell ever btw    VS


^This one doesn’t even show water.

How we depict things in science can really change how we learn about them (and dream about them).

 I took a scanning electron micrograph a while back in which I accidentally kicked off a piece of the top of a cell, revealing a dense cytoplasm.  The proteins are not tagged so you cannot tell them apart, but it gives a ‘window into the cell'(the title :P).  Much lower mag then the above pic, though:

The crowded complex nature of of the cytoplasm is important, obviously (though rarely depicted for simplicity). Also- there’s something called ‘fractal diffusion’ which was one of my fave concepts from biophysics course.   Anyway, below is a protein folding example of why we need more education in this area (!! 🙂 )


And some more image inspiration:



^David Goodsell is AMAZING




So for my lamp/sculpture I will make transparent stickers via the protein data bank ( and adhere them to fresnel lens cuttouts.  And make a few hundred, and put them on a vibrating translucent table, with white and UV light capability below (for fluorescent proteins!).  The 2d proteins will hopefully overlap a few layers thick and still be able to move, hopefully, as this would create a neat optical effect.  If they don’t move well, I could make a much sparser version with multiple vibrating levels.  This is sounding more appealing since Pete showed me this:

Love the way they move!  There like lil molecules, albeit sparse/slow.

I’ll conclude with more David Goodsell bliss (these are watercolors…):