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Art meets science through the Protein Data Bank

Published on 13/12/17

6th Form student sees her artwork selected for the PDBe's 2018 calendar

Earlier in 2017, the SPF Visual Arts department developed a project for 6th Form students in conjunction with scientists at the Protein Data Bank in Europe (PDBe). Our students were taught how to use their software to map protein structures and then use this information to develop art works.

The finished pieces were added to the students’ portfolios and exhibited at Cambridge Central Library for the Cambridge 6th Form Young Artists’ Exhibition 2017. One student's artwork has also made it onto the PDBe's 2018 Calendar.

The calendar is themed "Tiny Machines in the Arms Race of Nature" and expresses how proteins can be extraordinarily beautiful but are part of a battle between pathogens and the humans they infect.

The selected artwork is from Anna Valchanova (6th Form leaver 2017), and she explains her work further in the calendar itself: 


Anna Valchanova

"This image depicts the envelope glycoprotein of an HIV-1 virus. This protein decorates the surface of the virus, and binds to the human cells during infection. The protein is depicted in layers of yarn. Each layer is abstracted further from the original structure underneath the map of organza fabric, reflecting the high mutation rate that is typical of RNA viruses. This is set against a backdrop of newspaper clippings documenting the social impacts of this virus. At the centre of the envelope glycoprotein are three important and conserved helices. Yarn, ribbon, organza fabric, twine, thread and transfer paper on calico fabric."

The PDBe, based at the Wellcome Human Genome campus in Hinxton, is a founding member of the worldwide Protein Data Bank which collects, organises and disseminates data on biological macromolecular structures.

Well done to Anna and to all the students whose work has contributed to this calendar. Want to take a closer look? Download it free from the PDBe website today.