EMBO & NIH Conference Series


Vivid Ideas: Science Reimagined

Sunday, 7 June 2015, 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm, Charles Perkins Centre Auditorium, University of Sydney

Today’s high school biology students will be tomorrow’s scientists, explorers, and environmental policy makers. To prepare them for their work, a team led by naturalist E.O. Wilson created the iBook series ‘Life on Earth’.

Presented by VizbiPlus, this event brings scientific animator Gaël McGill, who led a team of 3D animators and multimedia artists, to Sydney, to show you how they created the multimedia components of this revolutionary iBook — a digital textbook for the 21st century.

Next in the program is the Sydney premiere of the latest biomedical animations from the Australia-based VizbiPlus project. Then we present the finalists in the VizbiPlus Challenge - mixing artwork inspired by science with science re-imagined as art.

Finally, if your own work bridges art and science, we want to hear from you! Submit an image and a short description of your work, and you could give a 30-second flash-talk as part of the event.

BUY TICKETS   Submit a FlashTalk   Enter the Challenge


About Gaël McGill, Ph.D. (President & CEO, Digizyme)

Driven by a passion for the visualization and communication of science, Gaël co-founded Digizyme while a research fellow at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. Gaël is Director of Molecular Visualization at Harvard Medical School where he also teaches scientific visualization.  He is the creator of the online portal molecularmovies.org and the Molecular Maya software toolkit. As a technical editor for Wiley/SYBEX Publishing, he has contributed to leading Maya and ZBrush textbooks.  He is also the Digital Media Director for E.O. Wilson’s ‘Life on Earth’ next-generation digital biology textbook.

This is our third year of involvement in Vivid Ideas, which is part of Vivid Sydney (22 May – 8 June), an 18-day festival of light, music and ideas — the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Visit www.vividsydney.com.

On a related note, we also presenting another Vivid Ideas event with Gaël McGill, Tamara Munzner, and others — a unique opportunity to learn new skills for anyone working with data:

event image

BUY TICKETS   Detailed Information

2015 VizbiPlus Animation Premiere

Wednesday, 4. February 2015, 4:30 - 5:45 pm, CSIRO Discovery Centre, Canberra

Watch the archived webcast here!

The new animations are:

Christopher Hammang’s “Alzheimer's Enigma” which explores the neurons of the human brain, and reveals how normal protein breakdown processes become dysfunctional and result in plaque formation during Alzheimer’s disease.

Maja Divjak’s “The Insulin Receptor and Type 2 Diabetes”, a story about diabetes focusing on the insulin receptor structure and what might be happening in insulin resistance, based on pioneering research at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

Our speakers will be:

Prof. Ian Chubb Chief Scientist of Australia
Dr. Jim Peacock CSIRO
Dr. Seán O’Donoghue CSIRO & Garvan Institute
Drew Berry WEHI
Dr. Bill Wilson CSIRO
Dr. Mike Lawrence WEHI
Dr. Maja Divjak WEHI
Christopher Hammang Garvan Institute

For speaker bios, please see the 2015 VizbiPlus Animation Premiere brochure.

2014 Events

David Goodsell: On Making Science Beautiful

6:30pm, 29 May 2014 - Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

This event - jointly organised with Vivid Ideas explores - how science inspires art — and how art advances science — through the amazing work of David Goodsell (La Jolla, USA), as well as three new biomedical animations his work has inspired.

David's world-renowned watercolors of cells and proteins open up scope for imagination and exploration in biomedical research, a theme continued in his research, which focuses on using computer graphics and simulation to understand the molecular machinery involved in living processes.

Following David's talk, Emmy winner Drew Berry from Melbourne will show how his animation style has been influenced by David's work, and he will present the Sydney premiere of three new biomedical animations created by three apprentices he has been training. The main event concludes with a presentation of the finalists in the VizbiPlus Challenge, featuring a range of creative work inspired by these three animations.

...and then: participate!

The main event is followed by a mixer at the Vivid Ideas Exchange, located in the adjacent MCA Lounge. If your work bridges science and creativity, there will be an opportunity to introduce and exhibit your work in a 30-second "Lightning Talk" during the mixer. To take advantage of this opportunity, see the call for participation PDF.

For the creative professionals, this event provides a unique insight into the role art, animation and creativity plays outside the traditional realms of creative practice, and an opportunity to expand your work into new fields. For scientists, this is a chance to learn from an internationally-recognised master in scientific illustration, and to meet and collaborate with others in the scientific and creative communities.

This event is jointly presented by Vivid Ideas and VizbiPlus: Visualising the Future of Biomedicine, a project funded by the federal government's Inspiring Australia initiative, the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research (WEHI), and CSIRO.

Places are limited, so book early to ensure you experience this unique event exploring the intersection of creativity and scientific discovery.



Unlocking the Protein Data Bank: A Masterclass with David Goodsell

8:30 - 11:00, 30 May 2014 - Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

Whether you're an animator, scientist, or curious beginner with no experience with molecular structures, join this masterclass to learn from one of the world's leading biomedical artists to discover the creative potential that lies within cell walls.

David will unpack the processes and challenges of working at a molecular and cellular scale, and explore the tensions between artistic licence and scientific research in the world of molecular visualisation.

Through a hands-on exercises, participants will be introduced the Protein Data Bank, identify the hurdles that often stop beginners in the field, and learn to use JSMol tools to customise images to highlight different aspects of the molecular structure/function. Bring your own laptop for advice from David as you search for appropriate structures, then customize images to highlight different aspects of the molecular structure and function. You'll leave with a new appreciation of proteins, and a new set of skills to aid in scientific communication, and artistic experimentation.

This will be an hands-on workshop session: bring your own laptop. A fascinating insight for anyone passionate about animation, illustration, or the physical sciences. Limited to 40 participants.


About David S. Goodsell

portrait of David Goodsell

David Goodsell is Associate Professor of Molecular Biology in the Department of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology at The Scripps Research Institute, LaJolla, California. His research focuses on how computer graphics and simulation are used to study structure/function relationships in key biological systems. Current projects include design of compounds to fight drug resistance in HIV, and development of AutoDock, a general computational docking method. Science outreach is also a strong focus of his lab, with projects such as the "Molecule of the Month," a feature at the RCSB Protein Data Bank that presents the structure and function of a new molecule each month, and several illustrated books on biological molecules, their diverse roles within living cells, and the growing connections between biology and nanotechnology. He has won numerous awards for his artwork, including the Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge, and an Art in Crystallography Prize.

2013 Events

Connect With Science at Vivid Sydney

30 May 2013, 7:00pm - Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

Scientists and creative practitioners have more ways, and more reasons, to collaborate than ever before. Discover how the tools of cinematography, storyboarding, graphic design, and sound engineering are increasingly being used to communicate modern, complex science. This is opening up a whole new arena for creatives with an interest in science, and for creative scientists alike.

This event features live presentations from two world-leading biomedical animators and science communicators: Graham Johnson from the UCSF (USA) and Drew Berry—winner of a MacArthur Fellowship, a BAFTA, and an Emmy award—from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne.

Following the talks, you will have a chance to network over a mixer in the adjacent MCA Lounge. There will also be an opportunity for a limited number of participants to briefly introduce their work to the audience. If your work bridges science and creativity or art, and you wish to take advantage of this opportunity, please send a short description of your work (one paragraph and one PNG image) to after you have registered for this event. For details, see the Call for Participation.

This event is jointly presented by the VIVID Ideas festival and VIZBI+ Visualising the Future of Biomedicine, a new project funded by the Inspiring Australia government initiative, the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research (WEHI), and CSIRO.

Places are limited, so register now to experience what the fusion of creativity and scientific discovery has to offer, and open your mind to new career dimensions.

For more info, listen to a radio interview with Sean O'Donoghue on Eastside FM (starts at 05:45).


About Graham Johnson

portrait of Graham Johnson with his illustration of a synapse

Graham Johnson, PhD is a Certified Medical Illustrator with 15 years of professional experience. He has specialized in molecular and cellular biology since graduating from The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1997. He illustrated both editions of the textbook Cell Biology by Pollard & Earnshaw as a coauthor, and has created thousands of scientific visuals ranging from journal covers to pedagogic animations and game designs. Graham currently lives in San Francisco, CA and works at UCSF as a qb3@UCSF Faculty Fellow. His PhD work in the Molecular Graphics Lab at Scripps focused primarily on developing algorithms to enable scientists and illustrators to generate, simulate, and visualize molecular models of cells. He continues to work with programmers to develop software that can interoperate the computational tools of science and art. Graham gives lectures on both molecular graphics and protein docking to structural biology/biophysics graduate students, medical illustrators, and high school students.


Award of Excellence from the Association of Medical Illustrators for the textbook Cell Biology by Pollard and Earnshaw

1st place illustration, The Synapse Revealed, NSF Science Visualization Challenge, National Science, Foundation and Science Magazine

1st place video, Rapid Visual Inventory & Comparison of Complex 3D Structures, NSF Science &, Engineering Visualization Challenge, National Science Foundation and Science Magazine

NVIDIA best poster award at VIZBI 2012 with Ludovic Autin. uPy: a ubiquitous Python API with, biological modeling applications enables ePMV & autoFill, EMBL, Germany


Lab page

Art Gallery at the 2012 ASCB Annual Meeting

YouTube channel

autoPack Visualization Challenge - hosted by the Computer Graphics Society of Digital Artists

About Drew Berry

portrait of Drew Berry in his studio at WEHI

Drew Berry is a biologist-animator whose scientifically accurate and aesthetically rich visualisations reveal cellular and molecular processes for a wide range of audiences. Trained as a cell biologist and microscopist Drew brings a rigorous scientific approach to each project, immersing himself in relevant research to ensure current data are represented.  Drew received B.Sc. (1993) and M.Sc. (1995) degrees from the University of Melbourne.  Since 1995, he has been a biomedical animator at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. His animations have exhibited at venues such as the Guggenheim Museum, MoMA, the Royal Institute of Great Britain and the University of Geneva. In 2010 he received a MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Award”.


MacArthur Fellowship, 2010

New York Times “If there is a Steven Spielberg of molecular animation, it is probably Drew Berry.” 2010

The New Yorker “[Drew Berry’s] animations are astonishingly beautiful”, December 2008

American Scientist “The admirers of Drew Berry, at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Australia, talk about him the way Cellini talked about Michelangelo.”, September 2009

Nature journal’s Niche Prize, UK 2008-9

Emmy for DNA documentary series by Windfall Films, 2005

BAFTA award for DNA Interactive DVD by RGB Co, UK 2004


Björk’s Biophilia iPad App and ‘Hollow’ music video

University of Geneva’s ‘Genome Dome’ exhibition, Switzerland 2009-10

‘Genes and Jazz’ at the Guggenheim with Harold Varmus, USA 2008-9

The Royal Institution of Great Britain installation, UK 2008-9

Shanghai Zendai Museum of Modern Art ‘Strange Attractors’ exhibition, China 2006

Museum of Modern Art ‘Premieres’ exhibition, USA 2004-5


WEHI animation library

TED talk

Björk ‘Hollow’ music video


CSIROGarvan InstituteWEHIInspiring AustraliaVivid Sydney

This Inspiring Australia initiative is supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education in partnership with the CSIRO, the Garvan Institute for Medical Research, and the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research (WEHI)