The Biomolecular Discovery Dome, which was featured at the BPS Annual Meeting in Philadelphia in February, made a return trip to the East Coast on April 27 as part of the University of Maryland’s Biophysics Program Exhibit at Maryland Day, an annual open house at the University that attracts more than 75,000 visitors. The Dome was filled to capacity throughout the day, hosting a total of more than 600 guests. The 9-meter tall inflatable dome allowed groups of approximately 30 individuals to enjoy 20-minute immersive presentations of biophysics via movies displayed on the dome ceiling and walls. Attendees included diverse groups, from toddlers to grandparents and students to research scientists. In addition to the movies, attendees participated in hands on activities including “Folding DNA Origami in UMD Colors” and a “Cell Tracking.” The event was co-sponsored by the Maryland Biophysics Program, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the National Center for Biomolecular Imaging, the Biophysical Society and the National Science Foundation.
Among the movies shown in the dome, one entitled “Cells in Motion,” was created by UMD biophysics PhD student Deborah Hemingway, who writes about the experience creating it below:
The movie was a collaborative video featuring the exciting world of cell motility from the macroscopic level of zebrafish embryogenesis down to the microscopic level of actin polymerization dynamics. The movie introduced these topics through selected research projects of the University of Maryland’s Biophysics Program, including joint projects with the National Institutes of Health. For example, it allowed me to highlight my own research in Dr. Wolfgang Losert’s group in collaboration with Dr. Ajay Chitnis’s group at NIH on zebrafish primordium migration. Other features projects included endothelial sheet migration, motion of neutrophils and dictyostelium, and actin filament simulations.
As the graduate student in charge of making the movie, my responsibilities included drafting the script, assembling the visual material, and incorporating the audio. The project allowed me to combine my visual communication expertise obtained from my prior professional experience in photography with my research to bridge the gap between researchers and a general audience. Making and showing the movie also brought PhD students from several programs together and enhanced the feeling of a biophysics community on campus.
Overall this was a wonderful experience, and the feedback from the community and campus was exceedingly positive. Given the success of the event, we definitely plan to include the Biomolecular Discovery Dome at next year’s Maryland Day.
– Deborah Hemingway, PhD student, University of Maryland Biophysics Program