Since the completion of the 10 yeast cells - based on different mutants and environmental conditions as studied by Zach Wilson - they have been on tour. Their first stop was Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology department retreat where students show their current work during two nights of poster presentation. When the yeast cells made their debut they received a high amount of attention from other graduate students curious about the visual forms and the science behind them. Some viewers stayed for 30 min trying to puzzle their way through the science and what each piece of data was telling them - much like Zach's own research process.
The cells second stop was a joint lab meeting (photo above) where Zach featured the yeast cells as a part of his talk about his research progress. He used them as a way to facilitate conversation amongst the labs and encourage group members to try to recreate a circuit diagram that described interactions between the a vacuole membrane lipid (PI3,5P2), a vacuole ion channel and pump, which helped to understand the lipid's function to regulate the cells water and ion concentrations.
The third stop on the yeast cell tour was the Annual Rocky Mountain Yeast Meeting held at the Coors Brewery. This time we tried a different set-up where the lanterns were hung on the wall instead of splayed out on a table. In part this was to match the format and spacing of the poster presentation. People's interest was peaked by the different display of information and many people stayed to investigate the lanterns and try to once again work through the science to see if they would come to a similar conclusion as Zach.
At the Yeast Meeting event there were several suggestions and questions we encountered which led to some slight redesign of the lantern lighting. For example, Zach's advisor suggested that we time the rates to all start together so that you could compare which rates were longest and shortest. Using the micro:bit radio function this was an easy fix. We also experimented with different color ranges to show high and low potassium concentration rather than brightness. We found viewers had a hard time distinguishing between higher and lower potassium concentrations. We implemented these changes and then submitted the yeast cells for a campus wide data visualization contest that the Norlin Library was putting on.
The Luminous Yeast project received second place in the campus wide competition and are currently residing in the 2nd floor of the Norlin Library (as shown above). Patrons of the library are instructed to peer inside and try to figure out the story of Zach's research - and to see what conclusions they arrive at. You can see an article about the competition here.