Communicating Science

Projects completed between 2003 and 2007

From 2001 through 2005 I studied Art History and Biology at UC Berkeley. I always knew I wanted to go into the arts professionally, but I am fascinated by scientists, perhaps because of my family. Consequently I spent a lot of time trying to animate the ideas of my favorite biology professors. In 2003 I received a grant from the Center for Integrated Nanotechnology to continue this work to help scientists on campus communicate their research using animation. Over these years I had the opportunity to collaborate with 11 different scientists working in a wide range of fields, from anthropology to physics. 
Exploring Time
In 2006, after graduating, I worked on a 2-hour documentary called "Exploring Time" directed by Robert Hone at Red Hill Studios about the way that people use visualization tools to understand natural cycles that are too slow or too fast for the human eye to perceive: for instance multi-decadal hurricane patterns or Milankovich cycles. On the other end of the spectrum are the sub-microscopic movements of proteins in our bodies that regulate things like the human heart beat. Below are some stills from animations I created using data generated by scientists collaborating on the show. 
I used data from a simulation created by scientists at IBM Jed Pitera and William Swope to create this visualization of a protein in our immune system. The animation demonstrates the way that the protein moves in water.
A still from an animation I made about the ion channels in our heart cells.
A still from an animation about a chemical process called PCR that synthesizes new strands of DNA from old ones. 
Paleontology and Animation
The images below come from a project undertaken by the paleontologist Kevin Padian. He sponsored a short research project designed to help understand how a pterodactyl walks based on fossilized footprints discovered in France. Professor Padian had already produced a quite beautiful animation showing the walk cycle he hypothesized using reasonable assumptions about ramphorynchus bone lengths. My project was to model the skeleton in 3D and try to use the bone geometries to make sure the shoulder bone was moving correctly. 
3d model I created in Maya to test the hypothesis about how the Pterodactyl walked. 
The traced fossils from Padian's paper. 
Autocell Project
The image below comes from a paper entitled "Reciprocal Linkage between Self-organizing Processes is Suffïcient for Self-reproduction and Evolvability" published by MIT Press in 2006, authored by anthropologist Terrence Deacon. I worked with Professer Deacon, Greg Niemeyer, Brandon Jacobs-Mills and Jason Gatt to visualize a theory about the origin of natural selection on pre-cellular Earth. The basic idea behind the project was that "autocatalysis" is a form of natural selection, and probably preceded the earliest cells. This project was also a wonderful way to explore the ways that artistic creativity might be applied to coming up with a scientifically feasible theory about the origins of life. We used rough, abstract intuition about motion and shapes in order to play around in a pre-cellular sandbox. 
Games for Therapy
These projects lead me to explore the intersection of games and biology using the Wii as a platform in 2007. These games were designed at Red Hill Studios in conjunction with the Baker Center for Wellness at UCSF to match the requirements of the physical therapy. I worked on building the 3d scenes, animations, and the interaction design of the levels. Sabaa Rehmani was lead level designer and Charlie Brown was the lead programmer. Some beautiful illustration work was provided by Terry Lee. I think eventually games and physical measurement devices will have the powerful ability to provide Parkinson's and cerebral palsy patients with data about their muscle activity and overall performance over time. This iteration of the project was fruitful in learning how to engage a generation of non-gamers with a new medium.
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