The Animation Lab



Science of HIV

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the causative agent of AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), a disease which was first described in the United States in the early 1980s. Since its initial discovery, HIV/AIDS has risen to become a global pandemic, with over 30 million infected individuals worldwide.

In collaboration with members of the CHEETAH consortium and the NIGMS Specialized Centers for HIV/AIDS-Related Structural Biology, this project seeks to describe current understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which HIV infects cells.

Please visit the Science of HIV website to view the animations and learn more about the project.


Project Quorum

As biology enters the age of big data, we are faced with the challenge of analyzing and making sense of data sets that are continuously growing in size and complexity. High throughput imaging platforms allow cell biologists to collect massive numbers of high resolution images of labeled cells, but reliably extracting useful data from these large image sets can be a challenge.

Project Quorum is a flexible gaming platform which will crowdsource the analysis of visual data — such as microscopic images or graphical charts — that is provided directly by research scientists.


Cryo-EM 101

Cryo-EM has emerged as a powerful tool for high-resolution structure determination. To aid the training efforts of newcomers to the field, we are creating a media-rich curriculum to augment users’ own hands-on training. The training material will contain videos, animations, and interactive simulations that cover the major components of the cryo-EM workflow.

This project is a collaboration with Peter Shen.



The Chemical Ecosystem Selection Paradigm for the Origins of Life (CESPOoL) project uses theoretical modeling and experiments to test the hypothesis that evolvable life-like chemical systems associated with mineral surfaces arise easily and can be enriched using in vitro selection approaches.

This project is funded by NASA and was initiated through a NSF/NASA Ideas Lab on the Origins of Life.




Chromatin remodeling

In collaboration with Brad Cairns and Cedric Clapier (Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah and HHMI), we created a series of animations describing how chromatin is remodeled by different complexes, including ISWI and SWI/SNF.

These animations were published as supplemental figures in a review and can be viewed and downloaded here.


Architecture of the Type IV Pilus Machine

Using a grappling-hook like mechanism, some bacteria are able to attach to a substrate and pull themselves forward. The molecular machinery and the mechanism for this type of motility was animated for this project, which was a collaboration with Yi-wei Chang in Grant Jensen's group (Caltech). 

Click here to view the abstract, and here to view the animated model on Youtube.


Membrane Scission by the ESCRT Proteins

In this collaboration with Jim Hurley's lab (UC Berkeley) and with support from CHEETAH, a series of three animations were constructed that depicted different models for how ESCRT III mediates membrane fission. Click on the links to view and play animations of the Dome model, Reverse Dome model, and the Buckling model or the publication abstract.


Molecular Flipbook

Molecular Flipbook was originally conceived as a prototype software that would allow biology researchers to readily create and share molecular animations. The project was funded by NSF and launched in 2014.

Although this project is no longer active, we hope to integrate Flipbook-like functionality into tools being built by the Allen Institute for Cell Science.


Cell Image Library

The Cell Image Library is a repository for images and movies of cells from a variety of organisms. It demonstrates cellular architecture and functions with high quality images, videos, and animations. This comprehensive and easily accessible Library is designed as a public resource for research and as a tool for education.

The Cell Image Library was initially funded and launched as an initiative by the American Society for Cell Biology.


Exploring Origins

The goal of the Exploring Origins project is to use molecular illustration and animation to help describe origins of life research and theories to broad audiences.

This website was part of a multimedia exhibit at the Museum of Science that included live presentations on the Current Science & Technology stage and a touch-screen kiosk.

Animations and illustrations were made during a NSF Discovery Corps Postdoctoral Fellowship, in collaboration with Jack Szostak and his laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Current Science and Technology team at the Museum of Science