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Exploring redox metabolism through art

 22 September 2021   Research News

Dr Claudia Lennicke is a post-doc at the LMS in the Redox Metabolism group led by Dr Helena Cochemé. In this blog, Claudia shares her passion for painting (which runs in the Lennicke family!), and the creative inspiration behind the cover artwork featured in the September 2021 issue of Molecular Cell.

Head-shot image of Dr Claudia Lennicke

Dr Claudia Lennicke

“I am a scientist, but wandering around art galleries is my hobby. I find that drawing enhances the creativity necessary for doing science. Early in the pandemic, when visiting museums and experiments with pipettes were not possible, I turned to experimenting with pencils instead.”

“I believe that art can play an important role in public engagement and science communication. Science and nature have been influencing artists since the dawn of humanity – from prehistoric cave drawings to the famous hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt. Both science and art reflect the desire of humans to understand, to describe, and to increase our experience and perception of the world. Artists have the tools to make the findings of scientists visible and understandable to a non-scientific audience – to effectively raise awareness about our research and to increase its impact in a way that reports, graphs and data cannot.”

Claudia returned to her native Germany to visit her parents during the summer holidays, after 12 months away because of the pandemic. When the opportunity arose to submit a journal cover design to accompany a new review from the group, she and her father put brush to canvas.

“Together with my Dad, who is an amateur artist, I explored how my research can be translated into artwork. I study redox biology in the context of ageing and metabolic disorders such as diabetes. I focus on cysteine residues, one of the 20 standard amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. Cysteines are special, because they can respond to cellular stresses and signals, and behave like a reversible switch, which is the basis of redox control. I enjoyed experimenting with oils for the first time, and the textures that can be achieved.”

Cysteine residue – oil painting by Dr Claudia Lennicke

 

“Meanwhile my Dad created a composition that instantly evokes in my mind the ‘feeling’ of metabolism. The combination of contrasting colours, from cool whites and blues to warm oranges and reds, represents the flow of energy and heat generated during biochemical reactions. The brushstrokes are vibrant, capturing the dynamic nature of metabolism. I am incredibly proud that this sci-art collaboration was selected to feature on the front cover.”

 

Claudia’s father, Manfred Lennicke, with the finished canvas

Claudia’s father, Manfred Lennicke, with the finished canvas

 

To learn more about the science behind the art, read the review here: Lennicke & Cochemé (2021) “Redox metabolism: ROS as specific molecular regulators of cell signaling and functionMolecular Cell 81(18) 3691-3707 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.molcel.2021.08.018

Front cover of Molecular Cell featuring oil painting by Manfred Lennicke

Molecular Cell front cover featuring artwork by Manfred Lennicke