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To explore the Visual Language of Chromatin, I led the development of a multi-disciplinary team to create an immersive virtual reality exploration of the chromosomes of a fruit fly.

In this collaboration between molecular biologists, computer scientists, entomologists, and visual artists, I integrated the data visualization platform “Visual Molecular Dynamics” (VMD) a software package widely used in structural biology, with the Unity game engine. This enabled researchers to manipulate and explore DNA inside of a 360 physical and virtual environment.

As a contributor and collaborator on
this $50k grant, our project utilized a large-scale motion tracking facility, the Cube, with simultaneous projections of the immersive experience surrounding the viewer. Our public exhibit was an interactive, fully immersive experience- both for participants and spectators.


By combining animated projections and virtual reality, using a large-scale projection environment paired with a motion capture system, the inside of the chromosome data was viewed both inside a head-mounted display as well as projected inside a 360° panorama.


Viewers could enter a simulation of the internal structure of the fruit fly chromosome, and physically navigate the spatial structure of the DNA by walking throughout the room. The user’s view of the experience in virtual reality was projected onto two curved screens.


This immersive projection environment was surrounded by Qualysis Motion Capture cameras, mapping the positions of the users and the VR headsets, tracked throughout the entire Cube environment.


Visual Language of Chromatin

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Visual Language of Chromatin, 2018.

An immersive experience, featuring HMD’s utilizing Qualysis Motion Tracking in Immersive Projection Mapped Environment.

Dr. Igor S Tolokh, Department of Computer Science, Dr. Alexey Onufriev, Departments of Computer Science and Physics, Dr. Igor Sharakhov, Department of Entomology, Virginia Tech.

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Technical Process

As a combination of a research tool and immersive artwork, this VR experience translated data from the lab of genetic scientists into the visual world of interactive art.

I assisted in the conversion of 3D models of DNA, converting the data from the lab to the studio, designing a VR environment for interacting and exploring it spatially.

Spatial Narrative Design

Placing real genetic sequences into virtual reality, I designed a lush and colorful way to explore the different layers of data.

Beginning by “entering” a fly, users were presented with a tour of the nucleus, the chromosomes, and the nucleosome, finally, exploring the blue and red helix of DNA.

Events + Experiences

Public events shared our research
tool experience with visitors, to learn and explore this unique experience of DNA while interacting directly with the scientists.

Part interactive research tool and immersive experience, this project was part of my continued interest in art & science collaborations.    

360° Animation of Virtual Reality Experience

To explore in 360, click on the YouTube link

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