Teaching Molecular Biology with Watercolors

Molecular biology professor David Goodsell is just as skilled with a microscope as with a paint brush

Mycoplasma mycoides, 2011
Mycoplasma mycoides, 2011 Feedloader (Clickability)

Macrophage Bacterium by David S. Goodsell

Molecular biology professor David Goodsell is just as skilled with a paintbrush as he is with a microscope. He creates festive hand-drawn watercolors to illustrate the inner workings of bacteria, viruses and human cells. On first glance, his paintings are an explosion of colorful confetti, but that’s no artistic licensing; Goodsell’s work accurately depicts just how crowded the intracellular matrix is.

His paintings accompany his scientific papers, demonstrating a harmonious coupling of art and research akin to the naturalists of yore – like Linnaeus, who hand-sketched species – but for the atomic world.

io9 describes Goodsell’s unique work:

They look far more like a journey into a psychedelic garden than like the bland illustrations in so many biology textbooks.

Images like his Inside a Eukaryotic Cell use multiple canvases to create an “infinite canvas” feel, and offer a unique perspective on cellular structures.

Cytotoxic T Cell


More from Smithsonian.com:

A Microscopic View of Henrietta Lacks’ ‘Immortal Cells’

Volvox Dancing the Minuet and Waltz 

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