A Cycle of Drawing in Research Into Life at the Molecular Level
At the nano-scale, our body cells are packed with millions of tiny protein machines, each with a key part to play in human physiology. The understanding of what each protein does and how it interacts with its neighbours is fundamental in keeping us well, fighting disease and designing new, more effective drugs. The more questions we ask, the more complex life at this molecular level appears to be. Despite improving technologies, the practice of drawing remains an integral part of the discovery process, allowing the maker to think through and bring together distinct ideas, analyse protein-protein interactions and plan ways to test hypotheses. In this paper, I discuss how a cycle of drawing is used, with each drawing type feeding forward into the next, and each iteration improving clarity and the collective knowledge. Sketches and drawings made to understand the wider scientific literature inform the planning of experiments and weekly timetables, the results of which feed back to embellish what was initially understood. I identify a trend at all stages of the cycle, where drawings begin life as transient objects, becoming more permanent as the thought contained within them persists. Permanence frequently involves the digitalisation of the drawing, allowing increased viewing through dissemination to the wider community in journal articles and discussion at scientific conferences.
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