The 2015 Lab Grammy competition was bigger and better than ever, with more videos nominated than any other year. As always, readers submitted a variety of songs rewritten to present the highs and lows of life in the lab. But this year introduced something new: videos created for education as well as entertainment. Here at BioTechniques, we are proud to present the very first Best Education Video Lab Grammy award to Suhas Rao, Miriam Huntley, Sarah Nyquist, and Ivan Bochkov, members of the Erez Lieberman Aiden lab at Baylor College of Medicine, for their video, “A 3D map of the Human Genome.”
A 3D Map of the Human Genome at Kilobase Resolution Reveals Principles of Chromatin Looping,” which was covered recently in a BioTechniques news feature. The team accepted this challenge and gathered to brainstorm ideas.
“We tried to think of a way to explain the science that would be informative and engaging to a wide audience, including people outside of the field,” explained Sarah Nyquist, an undergraduate student at Rice University currently completing a predoctoral fellowship in Aiden’s lab. “The main focus of our paper was on how the genome is folded up inside the nucleus of a cell. We thought that origami was the perfect metaphor to illustrate how genome folding drives function.”
While origami nicely represents DNA folding in the cell, it doesn’t easily lend itself to animation. The idea of stop motion was proposed and accepted as the best solution. With this premise in mind, Suhas Rao called together the lab members to work out a script and organize the sequences of images. Then Rao, Nyquist, Miriam Huntley, and Ivan Bochkov gathered together some origami paper and began folding.
“Making this video required us to shoot thousands of individual frames. We are very excited that more than three people watched it. Winning a Lab Grammy just goes above and beyond!” said Nyquist.
For Nyquist, one of the most exciting parts of research is sharing her findings. Scientists have multiple traditional avenues for this in lecture halls, poster sessions, conference centers, and myriad journals, where research is readily accessible to other scientists who might build on the results. But recent events have highlighted a need for improved methods of communicating science to the public. Videos such as “A 3D map of the Human Genome” and its competitor “So Infectious,” by Robert Jackson, Baba Brinkman, and students at Reading, Warwick, and Michigan State Universities, may just provide an avenue for engaging the public and inspiring them to learn more.
In fact, the Aiden lab has heard multiple positive reports from biologists and non-scientists as well about how much they learned from the video. “We all have friends who aren’t biologists who wonder what we spend all our time doing. Hopefully, now they know,” said Nyquist. But “as a word of advice: if you’ve decided to make a science video, there are probably easier ways to go than stop motion origami.”