Education Corner

Irina Bezsonova photo

Irina Bezsonova is a structural biologist interested in protein homeostasis and an amateur artist. She received her undergraduate degree in Biology from Moscow State University in Russia, and a PhD in Chemistry at the University of Toronto in Canada. She is currently an Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Biophysics at the University of Connecticut and holds the title of Town Artist in the town of Farmington, Connecticut. For more, see the Bezsonova Lab at UCONN Health and follow her on Twitter @IrinaBezsonova.

Inktober is a worldwide ink drawing challenge that takes place in the month of October. It was created in 2009 as a daily exercise for artists to improve their inking skills and develop positive drawing habits. The challenge is to follow a list of 31 drawing prompts, one for every day of October and share your work on social media. Anyone can do it; thousands of participants produce millions of works of art every year.

This year I decided to join the challenge. In fact, it was my third attempt. The first time in 2019 I failed miserably and barely made it to day 5. In 2020, I tried again now with a determination to dedicate at least 30 minutes of every day to it and, thus, finished my first Inktober. Inspired, I wanted to do it again this year but with a little twist - to draw a molecule in the Protein Data Bank for every prompt. One structure for every day of October, which happened to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the announcement of the PDB archive.

On the surface it seemed like such a narrowly scoped idea, how many suitable protein structures can there be? Won’t they all look the same after a while? In fact, I faced quite an opposite problem. The PDB is vast, diverse and versatile with over 180,000 structures of molecules that are open for interpretation both visually and scientifically. My biggest challenge often was to narrow it down and find the right subject for the daily prompt. This is where the science Twitter community worked at its best. I made many new connections and received numerous fantastic suggestions from structural biology enthusiasts that inspired me every day. As a result, I have learnt so much about the science behind some of the structures. And, perhaps, this is precisely the point of SciArt?

I always thought that protein structures were beautiful. They are also key to understanding biology on a molecular level and developing new medicines. SciArt may have an important role to play in promoting science, showcasing its beauty, and educating us.

I hope you will enjoy these ink drawings as much as I enjoyed making them!

Select an image to see the prompt, access the PDB structure, and download a high resolution image.