Brain-eating amoeba 

After hurricane Irma, Florida might have a greater risk of spreading infection. More specifically, brain-eating amoebas are more likely to thrive in the stagnant water.
These microbes can enter the body through the nose and reach the brain within a few days. There, they begin their feast, which in most cases is fatal.

This work in progress depicts an entry through which the parasite ingests its food – brain tissue.  The piece will evolve to include other elements of this tragic event.  Stay tuned! 

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Adrift 

This single word describes my current state quite accurately.  In the beginning of April, an unpredictable event knocked the ground out from under my feet.  Due to unfortunate external circumstances, the place I loved working at had to drastically downsize its staff in order to stay afloat.  As my daughter likes to sing “like a small boat on the ocean”, I have been drifting ever since.

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Bridging science, art and society

Last year, when I founded NeuroBead, I based it on the idea that scientists like myself would want to see beautiful images from their research commemorated as pieces of art, that they could display on their walls.  Many academic institutions, especially neuroscience departments, decorate their hallways with enlarged photos of cells that were taken under a microscope.  These images are both gorgeous to look at and representative of the great scientific discoveries achieved by the researchers.  They deserve to be preserved and remembered.  Many departments and microscopy facilities even send out calls for best image competitions.  I wanted to take this process one step further and portray this integration of science and visual art in a more creative form. Continue Reading

The dichotomy of art and science 

I have to admit, I have not been here in a while.  Life has been a bit hectic.  Every time I thought about writing, the same topic came to mind – the dichotomy of art and science.  I have written before about how science and art are considered to be at the polar opposite ends of the spectrum of logic and creativity.   How can they live in harmony in one person?  The word “harmony” reminds me of how I have also written about the concept of “flow” described by the Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.  At that point I have not read the book “Flow” yet, and was only basing my writing on the descriptions of flow I was able to find online.  Based on these descriptions, I was reaching the ultimate state of flow while working on my beadwork. Continue Reading

Red Blood Cell – hair clip # 4

It has been a while since I have given an update on my beadwork.  While I was working on the hair clips I have described in my previous posts here, here and here, my older daughter suggested a new idea.  She has all of the symptoms of a child raised by scientists.  Her most recent writing project in school focused on explaining how vaccines work!  She has been fascinated with our “Bring your kid to work day” and has tried doing some simple experiments in museums and at home.  She has also admired my artwork and has tried to get involved.


So when she saw me making biological hair clips in the form of cells,she requested a Red Blood Cell!  Red blood cells are unique in that unlike all other cells they do not have a nucleus and have a slightly “pinched” morphology.  They are responsible for carrying oxygen through our blood stream.

Here is a little bit of behind the process and how the clip turned out.  I love the simple elegance that it projects!


To see more of my work, please follow me on Instagram and check out my Etsy shop!

“Branching Out” – the story of Sholl analysis 

I have always been attracted to symmetry.  Ever since childhood, symmetry and equilibrium have always put me at ease and gave me a sense of aesthetic satisfaction.

In graduate school, I studied the process of differentiation (read “development”) of nerve cells called neurons.  Neurons have beautiful architecture, but are never actually symmetrical.  Yet they still give that sense of balance.  One metric of neuronal differentiation is the measurement of their processes called neurites.  Neurons send out their neurites in all directions to sense the surrounding environment and bring information back to the mother ship – the cell body.  Their growth and branching can be measured using so called Sholl analysis, in which you draw multiple concentric circles around the cell body and count the number of times each circle intersects with a neurite.  That gives a good measure of neuronal branching, which is directly proportional to the cell’s capacity of receiving and integrating information.  

While my project primarily required calculating the percentage of cells that met a certain criteria of minimal differentiation, when I first found out about Sholl analysis , I tried very hard to find an application for it.  I was secretly hoping that the treatment I applied to the cells would have an observable effect on their branching, just so that I could get the aesthetic satisfaction of performing Sholl analysis.  It seemed a bit silly, but brought a different type of gratification.

Towards the end of this summer, I found myself in need of finding a few peaceful moments.   I sat down in a local park after work and sketched out a diagram of Sholl analysis with a beaded neuron in the middle.  This idea has been in the back of my mind ever since I started NeuroBead.

Weeks later, my daughter saw the sketch in my notebook and asked how I could draw out every single bead in the sketch.  I smiled.

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The actual challenge came much later, when I began to brainstorm how to assemble the framework for this piece.  It need to be sturdy but floating, concentric but three-dimensional.  It reminded me of the spiral of knowledge I wrote about in my personal statement for graduate school.


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Here is the finished piece that still pulls at my heartstrings.  It gives a sense of peace and balance, while leaving enough room for individuality, curiosity and exploration as the neurites project their tips in different directions to make sense of their surroundings.  They are pushing their limits to explore the unknown.

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This is a limited edition piece that has not been posted in my Etsy Shop.  For purchasing information, please contact me directly at yzorina@gmail.com.  The first person to re-blog this post will receive a 10% discount for their next purchase!

The Royal Astrocyte

When I made the decision to start NeuroBead, I began to browse the internet for some inspiring images of neuronal cells in culture. The perfect picture had to meet several criteria. It had to be colorful, bright and vibrant, scientifically accurate and detailed, and yet simple enough to make in my first attempt. For my first piece I chose an image of astrocyte and neuronal co-culture.

The two cell types were labeled with red and green fluorescent markers and were also easily distinguishable by their distinctive cell shapes. I was determined to turn confocal microscopy on its head and convert an ultra-flat image into a three-dimensional rendering.  In the interest of injecting some creativity into the process, I made my own interpretation of the image, drawing on my experience of culturing these cells in the lab.

 

While I was happy with how it turned out, the convex protrusions of cell bodies did not seem like enough for me. I wanted to see if I could create a completely three-dimensional, free-floating cell. Moreover, I wanted it to have a solid three dimensional nucleus. So this is where I started.

My initial intention was to make a neuron, as I consider these to be my favorite cells. Their slender morphology never seizes to amaze me. But, as the cell body began to grow, it appeared to take on a shape of a lustrous astrocyte.


I have always been attracted to symmetry, and while cells in culture are almost never symmetrical, I wanted this artwork to fit into a square frame, just like the majority of pictures we take under a confocal microscope. However, keeping with my theme of science reaching beyond its limits, this cell was not constrained by its frame and extended its processes outward, to sense the world beyond its immediate reach.

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I am very happy to say that “The Royal Astrocyte” was purchased last week by a fellow scientist and I am very grateful to my very first customer!

Please sign up for NeuroBead Exclusive to see more behind the scenes work and a chance to order my artwork before I officially post it on my Etsy Shop.  Also, please follow me on Instagram!