science festival

Cambridge Science Festival 2012

To highlight the central role that mitochondria play in cellular energy metabolism, we produced an animation showing the breakdown of a simple sugar molecule; from its uptake in the intestine to the series of energy conversion steps that lead to the synthesis of ATP in the mitochondrial matrix. After the sugar molecule enters the blood stream in the intestine, it is taken up by the human cell and undergoes a series of breakdown reactions in the cytoplasm of the cell to form pyruvate, which is subsequently transported into the mitochondrion (see figure below).

Cambridge Science Festival 2011

Using the three-dimensional structures of the Fo and F1 domains of ATP synthase determined by Professor Sir John Walker and collaborators we constructed an accurate three-dimensional representation of the protein complex in LEGO. The model, consisting of approximately 15,000 LEGO bricks and built to a scale of 50,000,000:1, clearly shows the different functional domains of the complex. Participants were invited to build miniature LEGO models of the ATP synthase and complex I (the structure of which was solved in the laboratory of Dr. Sazanov).

Cambridge Science Festival 2010

Working together with designers Rachel Wingfield and Mathias Gmachl, we explored new ways of representing the molecular world at this year's Science Festival in Cambridge. We invited people to colour a 2.20 x 6 metre mural of a mitochondrial network. Children of all ages and adults engaged in this mitochondrial paint-by-numbers event. The first step was, via a computer test, to find out which colour each visitor preferred.

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