Sigma Xi Publications



American Scientist

Portrait of a Pandemic: Examinig the virus through an artisitic lens brings its details into focus

A respiratory droplet harbors SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in this painting by biologist and artist David S. Goodsell. Respiratory droplets are expelled when we breathe, which is why face masks that catch those droplets can slow the spread of the pandemic. The surface of SARS-CoV-2 is covered with spike proteins, giving it a distinctive, crownlike silhouette (magenta). The droplet consists primarily of water, but it also includes molecules that are normally found in the respiratory tract, including mucus molecules (green), pulmonary surfactant molecules from the surfaces of respiratory cells (blue), and protective molecules from the immune system (tan). Goodsell describes his process of researching and creating molecular art in “Painting a Portrait of SARS-CoV-2”

March–April 2021

Sigma Xi Publications