Jane Zen:

Jane Zen
Biochemical Illustration (independent) major

My works explore the intersection of science and art, ultimately acting as visual supplementation of the experimental research I have been doing in the area of biochemistry. Scientifically, my thesis research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms by which antimicrobial peptides and antibiotics interact to create synergy in killing bacteria. This study holds significance in both the scientific and medical fields because it presents a new way of overcoming antibiotic resistance. Experimentally, these therapeutic agents have been indicated to kill bacteria by interacting with and disrupting the bacterial membrane, but how these agents accomplish this is unknown. Moreover, our ability to visualize these mechanisms is limited. My works therefore seek to illustrate these molecular mechanisms and render them in ways that are engaging and informative to the viewer.

Scientific Illustration
watercolor, alcohol inks, and colored pencil on synthetic yupo paper
colorful scientific illustration of cellular structures

Consisting mostly of alcohol inks on both opaque and translucent synthetic papers, my works aim to portray the membrane disruption and explosions of the bacterial membrane when it is exposed to the peptides and drugs. Differences in the translucency of the papers are utilized to create the sense of layering and dimension one could imagine in the cellular environment. Color schemes are explored to reflect both the accuracy of the molecular phenomena but also to exaggerate it in an artistic way that better communicates its significance to the viewer. Both dry and wet mediums were also explored and combined in an attempt to create various effects and textures that would enable the viewer to visualize the phenomena that is taking place in the cell.


Through this process of exploration and experimentation, my works aim to bridge the gap between art and science and their processes. They seek to translate what is scientifically obscure into information that is visually communicative, and to portray ideas that we as scientists are unable to accurately visualize or study under a microscope into illustrations that effectively communicate what we aim to describe.  In my work, I seek to translate the scientific experience and enlightenment into illustrations that not only visualize the data but that also provide haptic access to the scientific processes by establishing reciprocities with different material processes of my studio practice.


illustration of cells breaking apart

colorful illustration of cellular forms