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Biotechnology, Russian minor
Chicago IL

A Fusion of Art and Science

Sarah Alef on Friday, 13 February 2009. Posted in Coursework, Research

As a biotechnology student, it's not often that I get to regress to days of old and get creative with paint, glue, and wire.  I don't do art projects very frequently (if ever) and while most of the time this is a good thing, every once in a while I like to get in touch with the artsy side of me.  The Virology class I'm in this quarter has us do a final project where we have to make a presentation on a virus of our choice.  The best part of the presentation though, is that we also have to make a 3-D model of our chosen virus! My group chose mimivirus, which is a relatively newly discovered virus that infects protozoa, but has been linked to pneumonia in humans.  Out of our group, I was the designated "artsy" person, and so I laid out the construction plans for the virus.  Check out our completed project: 


One of my group members and I holding the virus, and yes, those are glowsticks being used for spikes! :-D 


Our internal structure.  You can see our DNA (that's the red pipe cleaner, with actual sequence of the DNA polymerase) wrapped around histones.  The little spiral things in the background are RNAs (also actual sequences) and various proteins.  Some other viruses that were featured from other groups:


This is dengue fever virus.  It's got a smooth outer coat, hence the lack of spikes.  It's super bright!
It's carried by mosquitoes and is a big problem in Asia.


Hantavirus - transmitted via inhalation of mouse droppings, nest materials, etc.  Bigger problem in the southwestern portions of the US, but very cool looking.  I liked how their spikes were two different colors.


My friend Art holding his Marburg virus model.  There was actually an outbreak of Marburg recently in the United States, the first confirmed case ever.  The model was unique also because it was the only helical virus that was presented.  I think it kinda looks like sea cucumber, but that might be because I saw so many of them in the TCI this summer.


This is the SARS virus.  I thought it was really creative how they showed it fusing with the cell membrane, and that the spike proteins were made out of blue DumDum suckers :-)  I think everyone in the class had a lot of fun with this project, and I will be really sad when this class is over! It was so much fun to see everyone's ideas, and the different materials they used to construct their viruses! (this is just a sampling of the viruses, there's more on facebook)