Between discussing all the exciting posters, collecting swag from exhibitors (got a foam ball electron and a shot glass!), and catching up with old colleagues, you might have missed the Biomolecular Discovery Dome. I highly recommend checking it out on Wednesday before it closes at 1 PM. It’s the giant half globe inflatable in the Exhibit Hall that’s clearly NOT a poster.
Once inside, you watch one or two narrated, IMAX style animations about a biophysical area of research. I got to see a breakdown of how HIV replicates itself and a quick introduction to neurons in the brain. If you ever thought a protein structure resembled an alien spaceship of some sort, wait till you see it projected on a giant screen. HIV RNA looked like an incarnation of the infamous Flying Spaghetti Monster while integrase/reverse transcriptase manipulated genetic material with terrifying efficiency. My favorite part though occurs at the end of the human brain clip. The animation showed an activating ion channel in a neuron as an ominous Big Brother type voice announces: “Those flowing ions are your thoughts.” before cutting to the credits. In a way, it really puts perspective into what we are actually studying when we look at channels and transporters: our humanity.
The movies were provided by Tom Goddard using UCSF’s Chimera program. If you’re interested in learning how to make your own movies, I found an online tutorial that seems like a great place to start (http://www.rbvi.ucsf.edu/chimera/data/nih-oct2012/movies.html). I’m hoping to have one or two movies for my research at the next Biophysical Society meeting because let’s face it, who doesn’t love looking at protein structures spinning and zooming around?