December 5, 2023 — In the delicate dance between artistry and science, Jane Hsi’s undergraduate journey was a compelling narrative of duality. Mornings found her sprinting to the lab for biochemistry pursuits while afternoons and nights were spent immersed in drawing classes and the quiet hum of the art studio. The juxtaposition of her arts and biochemistry majors became a blend of beakers and brushstrokes.
Hsi, an artist and a second-year doctoral student in the biochemistry and molecular biology concentration of the University of Florida College of Medicine Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences, recently received a National Science Foundation, or NSF, research fellowship for her work in structural biology. Hsi’s exceptional achievement marks a milestone in her career as she successfully integrates her passion for art with her scientific pursuits.
“It was an honor to receive such a prestigious award,” she said. “Art has always been something that I loved and it took me a long time to figure out how art and science could work together.”
The NSF grant application, which emphasizes both intellectual merit and broader impact, prompted Hsi to explore structural biology through an artistic lens, delving into geometries and compositions. Her application for the fellowship included a proposal for a new program geared toward educating high school students, focusing on virus-building and 3D elements to enhance understanding of molecular structures.
Hsi credits Mary Jo Koroly, Ph.D., the director of the UF Center for Precollegiate Education and Training and a research associate professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology, for helping to bring her vision to life. With Koroly, she was able to create and share summer seminars centered around virus-building as part of the curriculum for elementary, middle and high school teachers. Hsi was also able to work directly with a high school student this summer, creating window art depicting virus structures.
“Structural biology is just so beautiful and artistic, and, in that way, it is serendipitous that the two would overlap for me and allow me to help the education community through seminars and hands-on activities,” said Hsi, whose research focuses on obtaining structures through cryogenic electron microscopy.
Hsi’s primary project under the NSF grant aims to determine the structures of certain genera of viruses in the parvovirus family that remain unknown to scientists in terms of how they are assembled.