Alexa Marcus - Skaar

This abstract piece depicts the Skaar lab's research "Dietary zinc deficiency compromises immunity to Acinetobacter baumannii pneumonia," intended to determine therapeutic targets to fight bacterial infection, specifically A. baumannii, a cause of pneumonia.

Alexa Marcus - 2

This is a small acrylic painting that depicts the A. baumannii bacteria, the central topic of my other pieces for the Skaar lab.

Alexa Marcus - 1

Mutations in the genome of A. baumannii, where ISAba11 is inserted upstream of ispB and reduces ispB's expression, increases A. baumannii's cell size and antimicrobial resistance, making it more harmful. This is shown in that the bacteria are deeper red as they become more virulent. As this transitions across the graphic, gene insertion and asymmetrical membrane restoration are depicted.

Emily Kopec - Untitled

A battle in the colon between C.difficile and a neutrophil. C.difficile secretes toxins that release heme into the gut; it is then able to repurpose that heme into a shield to protect itself. Neutrophils (the green character) releases antimicrobial compounds at C. diff, but the shield renders them ineffective.

Emily Kopec - Untitled

A cover slide showing the C.diff and Neutrophil in battle against each other. This image introduces the characters in the journal article, making the science more digestible once the reader is set up to visualize the action described in the article.

The Eric skaar Lab

In order for bacterial pathogens to cause disease, they must obtain nutrients inside their vertebrate hosts. The primary nutrients that are limiting to the growth of bacteria inside vertebrates are metals. This is due to the fact that vertebrates have developed numerous metal chelation systems that serve as a host defense against microbial infection. This process is called nutritional immunity. My laboratory is interested in identifying the host and bacterial factors that are involved in this battle for metal during the pathogenesis of infectious diseases. We use techniques from biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, and chemistry to answer fundamental questions pertaining to the host-pathogen interaction. In particular, we focus on diseases caused by the important human pathogens Staphylococcus aureus (Staph infections), Bacillus anthracis (Anthrax), and Acinetobacter baumannii (leading cause of hospital infections and battlefield wound infections). The long term goal of our research is to develop novel therapies to treat microbial diseases.

The artists

Alexa Marcus

Alexa Marcus has always had a passion for art and science, but only recently has she explored how the two can intersect in a unique and useful way. Alexa's interest in art began early in her life and more recently culminated into taking drawing courses throughout high school and college and starting her own freelance creative services business (alexamarcusdesigns.com). This creative services business has opened up a new world of art for Alexa, as graphic design is a relatively new medium for her. Alexa offers her clientele, made up of small businesses, a comprehensive branding package, from logo design to brand identity. Along with this budding business, she also has a growing interest in how humans interact and behave, leading her to major in Human and Organizational Development and minor in Neuroscience and Business.
Because of these interests, she was inspired to join the first ArtLab class offered at Vanderbilt her freshman year. Alexa was able to explore the intersection of art and science through the creation of a painting based on research from the Calipari lab. This course inspired her to join the ArtLab this summer and partner with the Skaar lab. Alexa has enjoyed using her art talents to portray scientific findings in an engaging and accurate way. Her work ranges across the mediums acrylic paint and graphic design. She hopes that her abstract pieces will draw in a variety of audiences and urge them to delve deeper into the meaning behind these pieces.

As an artist I am interested in process-based conceptual art. I enjoy navigating the space between tangible and intangible, and sharing that exploration with a community; therefore, my art captures the ideas, and intellectual inspiration that I have shared with others and instills the same emotions that I experienced in those interactions. In the AiR program I was interested in personifying bacteria to characterize interactions in the body through emotions that are simple to conceptualize.

Emily Kopec

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