Molecular Storytelling Helps Diverse Audiences Understand Biomolecular Science

BUFFALO, N.Y., August 5, 2020 — Reducing the barriers preventing everyone from exploring the science behind biomolecular interactions and structures is the goal of molecular storytelling, a combination of visual and interactive methods used to explain the complex subject of structural biology.

This approach will be presented at the 70th annual meeting of the American Crystallographic Association, being held online Aug. 2-7.

Through a 20-year partnership with the RCSB Protein Data Bank, researcher David Goodsell, from the Scripps Research Institute, and a team of scientists have developed the Molecule of the Month series. The series uses visual and interactive storytelling as an educational bridge for a wide audience of students, educators and the public.

“Molecule of the Month explores a different biomolecular topic each month using structures from the archive,” said Goodsell. “The column uses the traditional storytelling approach used in much of science communication, describing structure/function relationships through examples, and presenting a relatable context for understanding the impact of structural science on health, energy, agriculture and fundamental biology.”

During the COVID-19 outbreak and quarantine, Goodsell worked with the Protein Data Bank to develop educational material about the virus.

“We presented a detailed painting of the virus, along with a coloring book version of the painting,” said Goodsell. “We received numerous responses from parents who were using the activity with their children while sheltering at home to help promote discussion about the virus.”

This method of outreach has been confirmed as effective through online surveys and informal communication through students and educators.

“My goal was to create something short and easy to digest that puts the focus squarely on the structural information being presented. To do this, I developed a style that combines informal language, minimizing jargon, and an accessible, cartoony style of depicting the molecules,” said Goodsell.

The virtual session, “Molecular Storytelling for Structural Biology Outreach and Education” will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 5 at 2:10 p.m. EDT. Media interested in viewing the virtual talk should contact media@aip.org for access.

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USEFUL LINKS

Main meeting website: https://www.acameeting.com/ 
Annual meeting program: https://www.acameeting.com/schedule-sessions

PRESS REGISTRATION

We will grant free registration to credentialed journalists and professional freelance journalists. If you are a reporter and would like to view the virtual talks and sessions, contact media@aip.org. For urgent requests, staff at media@aip.org can help with setting up interviews and obtaining images, video or background information.

ABOUT ACA

The American Crystallographic Association was founded in 1949 through a merger of the American Society for X-Ray and Electron Diffraction (ASXRED) and the Crystallographic Society of America (CSA). The objective of the ACA is to promote interactions among scientists who study the structure of matter at atomic (or near atomic) resolution. These interactions will advance experimental and computational aspects of crystallography and diffraction. Understanding the nature of the forces that both control and result from the molecular and atomic arrangements in matter will help shed light on chemical interactions in nature and can therefore lead to cures for disease. See http://www.amercrystalassn.org.

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