Off topic

Off topic: Molecular visualization: scientific art and artistic science

Zoran Štefanić, Ruđer Bošković Institute, Division of Physical Chemistry, Croatia

Arguably one of the most important steps in conveying scientific information is making a good and captivating figures, that summarize the most important aspects of the scientific story and represent it in a clear and, not less importantly, visually appealing way. As they say, one figure is worth more than thousand words, and this becomes even more relevant in today’s scientific (or any other) endevour, where words are less and less read, simply due to ever increasing pace of our daily routine. Of course, squeezing sometimes dry scientific data into a fresh and drinkable juice is quite a challenge, but often even very interesting stories get spoiled into a bitter drinks just for the lack of nice presentation. In the worst case scenario, this could even lead to sound scientific work being turned down by editors with a watchful eye.

Alas, making good visual representation (figure, movie, 3D model) of a molecule, especially in the field of macromolecules is often more an art than science, and requires a lot of technical skills. Nevertheless, nowadays there is a plethora of tools that make this task a lot easier than it used to be, bringing along the way even some childish playfulness. In this presentation I will try to give a personal overview of my encounters with different kinds of molecular visualizations, graphical tools, web applications, programming languages that I have used in the past, as well as of my experience as an illustrator of a number of textbooks for students.