There can be great beauty in plant science, something researchers see and appreciate but seldom have a chance to share. An agricultural biochemistry postdoctoral researcher at the University of Missouri has not only experienced such artistry, but has seen her captured image added to a prominent MU sculpture.
The postdoc, Michelle Leslie, was a winner in the Bond Life Sciences Center Joy of Discovery Image Contest. She submitted a live-cell image of an Atypical Arabidopsis thaliana root tip. Her research took place in the lab of Antje Heese, assistant professor of agricultural biochemistry. Leslie named the image “Traffic Jam.”
The image was converted to a plastic disc and added to the four-story-tall Joy of Discovery sculpture in the lobby of the Bond LSC. The sculpture, by artist Kenneth Frederick von Roenn Jr., was unveiled in 2007. The sculpture is designed to embody the enthusiastic, self-perpetuating joy of discovery woven into the fabric of MU’s Life Sciences Center.
The Science Behind the Art
“Plants undergo dynamic growth changes in response to environmental conditions,” Leslie explained about her artwork. “In particular, roots tips elongate at a remarkable rate in search of nutrients and water. This high growth rate is fueled by both enhanced cellular division and expansion, which are coordinated to produce orderly files of cells. In my image, the lipophilic dye FM4-64 is used to visualize membrane compartments. Atypical cell divisions result in triangular and trapezoidal cell shapes that disrupt the normal orderly cell files of the elongating root tip. The fungal toxin BrefeldinA (BFA) causes further disruption of internal membrane compartments, as seen as FM4-64 stained BFA bodies within the cells.”
The LSC composition is organized as a central spine that spans the atrium with circles and spirals suspended along its length and a double helix spiraling around the exterior of the sculpture. The central spine represents the central role of the LSC while the circles represent the individual areas of study conducted within the Center. The spirals between these circles support discs of photographic transparencies. The double helix represents DNA, which is fundamental to all of the research.
The discs contain actual images of current research in the Life Sciences Center on transparencies that can be replaced over time.