Diane Burko, “USA COVID” (2020)

Cross Section of SARS-CoV-2 Virus

DAVID S. GOODSELL, Molecular Landscape: SARS-CoV-2 and Neutralizing Antibodies, 2020, watercolor, 13 x 10 inches, collection of the National Academy of Sciences.

In this watercolor painting, a cross section of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the COVID-19 disease is surrounded by blood plasma, with neutralizing antibodies depicted in bright yellow. Commissioned by the journal Nature for the cover of its August 2020 COVID-19 special issue, the painting shows the virus, which is invisible to the naked eye, as a physical entity.

Since early 2020, David Goodsell, a molecular biologist and artist, has been creating portraits of the coronavirus in which he attempts to capture the rapidly evolving state of knowledge of its structure. This painting incorporates information from two cryogenic electron microscopy studies exploring the molecular architecture of the virus. Goodsell’s research focuses on the structural biology of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, as well as the structure and function of bacterial cells. He is known for his watercolor paintings of cell interiors, which integrate information from structural biology, microscopy, and biophysics. He started using watercolors as a tool to explore the workings of cells when he was creating early molecular graphics programs to visualize protein and DNA structures. He is a professor of computational biology at the Scripps Research Institute, in San Diego, and a research professor at Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where he is the scientific outreach lead at the RCSB Protein Data Bank.

Text by Alana Quinn. Share your creative responses to the COVID-19 pandemic at https://www.cpnas.org.

Cite this Article

Goodsell, David S. “Cross Section of SARS-CoV-2 Virus.” Issues in Science and Technology 37, no. 2 (Winter 2021): 96.

Vol. XXXVII, No. 2, Winter 2021