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Irving Geis and His Paintings of Proteins

myoglobin crystal structure

“Crystal structure of myoglobin (1961)” from the Irving Geis Collection. Rights owned and administered by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Reproduction by permission only.

The image above was a painting of myoglobin, the first protein structure solved by X-ray crystallography. The painting was created by Irving Geis for a Scientific American article “The Three Dimensional Structure of a Protein Molecule” by John Kendrew, published in December l961. John Kendrew and his colleagues solved the myoglobin structure in l958.

Geis Portrait

Irving Geis (1908-1997). Photo: Sandy Geis.

Nowadays, one can easily create an image of a protein structure with the aid of a computer and molecular visualization software. In 1961, however, everything had to be done by hand. Creating an image of a protein structure required not only outstanding artistic skills of visualizing complicated 3D structures, but also extraordinary patience. Originally trained as an architect at Georgia Institute of Technology and receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts from University of Pennsylvania, Geis had all the skills and knowledge to visualize the 3D structures of proteins.

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Joining University of Science and Technology of China

This February, I will become an associate research fellow at the Department of Science and Technology Communication and Policy (STCP) at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC). I am very excited about this opportunity and look forward to starting a new journey in scientific visualization at USTC.

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This is a following post of How to make cover art for scientific journals: study existing covers and make early decisions. In this post, we will discuss the creation processes of a Science cover, a PNAS cover, and a Nature Biotechnology cover.

1. Science cover (August 24, 2012)

Research paper: A Periciliary Brush Promotes the Lung Health by Separating the Mucus Layer from Airway Epithelia

The authors studied the airway epithelial cell surfaces in human lungs. They discovered that cilia and airway surface are covered by tethered biomacromolecules that form dense, brushlike structures. The image below was the authors’ attempt on the cover design (image courtesy of Liheng Cai and Aloha Sahl).

science-00

There were two problems with this design. 1. The main focus of the paper was the brushlike structures of the airway surface. However, the human lungs took a big portion of the image. 2. After studying the previous covers, we found that Science seldom used schematic drawings and blow-up insets for their covers. As a result, I proposed that we should make a new image that focuses on the airway surface and brushlike structures. Below is the first version.

science-01-borders

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KAUST_workshop_image_566

From January 11th to January 15th, I was at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia, giving a workshop titled: Essential Techniques for Effective Visual Communication in Science. It was one of the many courses of the 2014 Winter Enrichment Program at KAUST. Originally, it was a 3-session (3 hours for each session) workshop from Jan 11 to Jan 14. But because of the popularity of this workshop, another 2-session workshop was added on Jan 15.

The workshop was a huge success. I am very happy to see that many graduate students and researchers show great interests in scientific graphics and animations. This encourages me to create more video tutorials on this website to help more people to create visuals for their research.

I had a great experience at KAUST. I am very grateful for the invitation of Prof. Hussain and the excellent organization by WEP staff members. KAUST campus is truly beautiful and unique. Below are some photos I shot while staying there (more photos on Behance):

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When you have a paper accepted by a scientific journal, you might think about submitting an image to compete for the cover. Or you might be contacted by the editor and asked to provide a cover art. Having a cover story would potentially bring a lot of attention to your research, especially when it comes to famous journals like Nature and Science. But the big question many researchers face is: how to make engaging cover art that would win the competition?

The first and probably the most important step is to study the existing covers of the journal of interest and decide what kind of cover art you want to create. However, this step is often ignored by researchers, which reduce the chance of getting the cover.

When you browse through the published covers, you will see that cover art usually falls in several categories discussed below in detail. (We will skip editorial covers and astronomy pictures here. A nice astronomy picture usually makes the cover automatically.) The essential task in this step is to choose a categories that suits best for your research.

1. Photos. Examples: photos of a new species, a recently discovered fossil, a flexible electronic device, a newly invented instrument, and an interesting phenomenon frozen in time, etc. A nice photo is not only visually compelling, but it also serves as a visual evidence of your research. To take a good photo, it requires a lot of practice and creative thinking. If you are interested in taking photos yourself, I highly recommend Envisioning Science: The Design and Craft of the Science Image by Felice Frankel. You might also want to work with a professional photographer if necessary.

Top left: the rock pigeon (Columba livia) exhibits spectacular variation among more than 350 different domestic breeds. The adult male Old Dutch capuchine shown here is one of many breeds with a crest of reversed feathers on its head and neck. Photo: Sydney Stringham Top right: A biodegradable integrated circuit (length: ~2.54 centimeters) shown partially dissolved by a droplet of water. Image: Beckman Institute, University of Illinois, and Tufts University Bottom left: a carved stone head (height: 6.8 centimeters) excavated from the lowland Maya site of Ceibal, Guatemala (around 400 BCE). Reconstruction: Daniela Triadan; Photo: Takeshi Inomata Bottom right: accumulation of algal biomass under thinning Arctic sea ice (image diameter ~25 meters). Photo: Stefan Hendricks, Alfred Wegener Institute, Expedition IceArc (ARK27-3) All images and figure captions from Science Magazine website.

Top left: the rock pigeon (Columba livia) exhibits spectacular variation among more than 350 different domestic breeds. The adult male Old Dutch capuchine shown here is one of many breeds with a crest of reversed feathers on its head and neck. Photo: Sydney Stringham. Top right: A biodegradable integrated circuit (length: ~2.54 centimeters) shown partially dissolved by a droplet of water. Image: Beckman Institute, University of Illinois, and Tufts University. Bottom left: a carved stone head (height: 6.8 centimeters) excavated from the lowland Maya site of Ceibal, Guatemala (around 400 BCE). Reconstruction: Daniela Triadan; Photo: Takeshi Inomata. Bottom right: accumulation of algal biomass under thinning Arctic sea ice (image diameter ~25 meters). Photo: Stefan Hendricks, Alfred Wegener Institute, Expedition IceArc (ARK27-3). All images and figure captions from Science Magazine website.

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Roger Hayward and The Architecture of Molecules

Architecture of Molecules Photo

Roger Hayward (1899-1979) was an architect, artist, scientific illustrator, and inventor. Today, he is probably best remembered for the pastel drawings he created for The Architecture of Molecules, a book coauthored by Linus Pauling and Hayward, published in 1964. Hayward drew 57 beautiful plates and Pauling wrote easy-to-understand texts accompanying each plates. The book introduced various topics in chemistry to the general public, including atomic structure, structure of small molecules, crystal structure, and protein structure. It was one of the first books in which art and science are perfectly blended together. Nature magazine called it “a fascinating work of art…”

Roger Hayward

Roger Hayward (1899-1979). Photo by Harvey of Pasadena. Image source: Special Collections & Archives Research Center, Oregon State University Libraries.

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In this post, we focus on pixels in bitmap images. I will first introduce some basic concepts about pixel count, resolution, pixel density, and image size. Then I will explain why you should avoid artificially increasing pixel count. Finally, we will cover some tips on how to generate enough good pixels for bitmap images.

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Many scientific graphics are vector based, such as data plots and visualizations generated in Origin, Matlab, or Excel, chemical structures created in ChemDraw, and schematics drawn in PowerPoint or Adobe Illustrator. When submitting your figures for publications, you can choose an image format such as PDF, EPS, or Adobe Illustrator (*.ai) to preserve the vector graphics in the figures. Here are 2 reasons for doing that.

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Multi-panel figures are used quite often in scientific publications. A multi-panel figure can include bitmap images, diagrams and schematics, data plots etc. Here are 5 tips for preparing multi-panel figures.

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Transition to WordPress

Dear visitor,

L2Molecule.com (previously L2XY2.com) is now in transition from Cargo to WordPress. The WordPress platform would allow me to create more useful content for people interested in scientific graphics and animations. In the meantime, you can visit my portfolio site at:

http://portfolio.l2molecule.com

Some content that will be added in the near future:

  1. Easy-to-follow tutorials on software tools for creating scientific graphics and animations.
  2. Design principles of scientific graphics and animations.
  3. Excellent scientific graphics and animations from today and the past.
  4. Interviews with experts in the field.
  5. Walkthrough of the creation processes and thoughts behind my own work.

Thank you for your visit and I hope you will be back soon.

Cheers!

Yan Liang, PhD

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