Image of lipids in motion wins ‘Art of Science’ prize
Matthieu’s winning image: ‘Visualization of collective lipid motions in a model vesicle’ (Click to enlarge)
Postdoctoral researcher Dr Matthieu Chavent has been awarded first prize in the Art of Science Image Contest at the annual US Biophysical Society meeting.
His image, ‘Visualization of collective lipid motions in a model vesicle’, was one of 12 shortlisted on the basis of scientific significance, originality, and artistic and/or visual impact. Attendees at the meeting voted for their favourite image, with Matthieu’s image coming out in top place.
Matthieu has a background in molecular graphics and is a postdoc in the lab of Professor Mark Sansom. His image was also selected from around 800 submissions as one of the ‘Favourites of the Jury’ for the EMBO Journal Cover Contest 2014 (http://covercontest.embo.org/Gallery_2014.html ).
The awards are timely because Matthieu and his colleagues have just had the methodology used to generate such an image accepted at the forthcoming 169th Faraday Discussion conference on ‘Molecular Simulations and Visualization’. The work will be published in Faraday Discussions (for a preprint version see here)
Understanding how complex biomolecular systems work is a big challenge. Molecular simulation is a powerful approach routinely used to complement experimental studies. But immersive and interactive virtual reality approaches, and advanced visual analysis of simulation data, are tools that could significantly speed up our understanding – areas that are only starting to be explored.
Matthieu has been interested in the development of new ways of visualizing molecular systems since his PhD in Nancy at LORIA (Lorraine Research Laboratory in Computer Science and its Applications).
As a student, he published an article about the visualization of the molecular surface using GPU (graphics processing unit) technology to accelerate the rendering of the surface. The work was extended during his postdoc at the Laboratoire de Biochimie Théorique in Paris to unify different types of representation such as Licorice, CPK and Van der Waals, generating a new methodology to represent inter-atomic bonds using hyperboloids.
Matthieu and his colleagues in Paris continued to explore new ways of displaying molecular assemblies using the Unity3D game engine normally used to create video games. They created a user-friendly molecular viewer, work published last year in PLoS One (‘Game on, science - how video games technology may help biologists tackle visualization challenges’).
With a background in molecular graphics, Matthieu’s expertise complemented those of the SBCB unit in the department and he was appointed as a postdoc there in October 2011. Matthieu joined colleagues Dr Tyler Reddy and Dr Joseph Goose to help them analyse the immense membrane systems they were modelling.
Together, Matthieu and colleagues have tried to develop new ways of visualizing such systems, such as simplified models of bacterial and viral envelope membranes, in order to understand the collective behaviour of lipids.The work is being carried out in collaboration with Dr Bruno Jobard at Pau University in France and Dr John Stone at the University of Illinois.
Their approach, described in the Faraday Discussions paper, can be readily applied to other systems such as proteins and nanoparticles within large complex membranes.