IDSC Fellows Symposium features Janet Iwasa

Janet Iwasa HIV cell

IDSC Fellows Symposium features Janet Iwasa

The second annual IDSC Fellows Symposium took place on Friday, April 17, 2015, and opened with a presentation by Janet Iwasa, PhD, from University of Utah’s Dept. of Biochemistry.

Dr. Iwasa emphasized that 2- or 3-dimensional drawings cannot compare to animating the process of cell behavior as a vehicle to further understanding. Ms. Iwasa showed various animations she had created “to illustrate a lot of things that are not ‘experimentally verified.” She showed her animation of clathrin-mediated endocytosis (coated vesicle in real time), and said that size of the proteins plays a big factor, as well as the speed in which they work, and crowded environment of the cell—things never seen in real time. Dr. Iwasa’s latest work is an animation of the HIV cell (plus its size compared to ‘normal’ cell and how it enters a cell).

These vimeo videos are on a project specific website which was also shared at Dr. Iwasa’s 2014 TED Talk “How animations can help scientists test a hypothesis”:


The IDSC Fellows Symposium heard how Dr. Iwasa was inspired to create molecular animation videos, and the type of information she is given by scientists in order to try to understand what needs to be created. She explained that molecular animation often requires her to just listen and work off of someone’s idea of how something works. Wanting to share this ability with other scientists and students, but constrained by the degree of difficulty and time involved in studying 3D animation software as she did (like Maya, Blender, and Cinema 4D, as well as plug-ins like BioBlender, Molecular Maya, and RMV), Dr. Iwasa came up with an idea for a user-friendly software called “Molecular Flipbook” (MF) which has a 10 minute to 1 hour learning curve, and is a great teaching tool.

Dr. Iwasa’s stellar talk was followed by presentations from our 2014-15 IDSC Fellows, who outlined the results of their projects, and highlighted how much they had learned from the experience of being IDSC Fellows this academic year. Presenting were our two undergraduate Fellows, Lyssa Goldberg and Katherine Dale, and only one of our graduate Fellows, Chun Wu, because the second, Matthew Field, was presenting at a national cancer conference this week!