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Dan Gurnon: Rare Genetic Disease / Molecular Visualization

Helping to Diagnose Rare Genetic Diseases with the Rare Genomics Institute

Next generation DNA sequencing is an enormously powerful tool in the discovery and diagnosis of rare genetic disorders. In collaboration with the Rare Genomics Institute, we analyze the genetic sequences of patients with undiagnosed genetic disorders in search of causative variants, and we connect families with researchers who may be able to help move their case forward.

Molecular Visualization

Other projects involve the development of new ways to envision and share ideas about the molecular world. They draw on connections between biochemistry, computer science and art. For example, a collaboration with artist Julian Voss-Andreae, DePauw art professor Jacob Stanley, and Klaus Schulten's lab at the Beckman Institute, resulted in a large-scale steel protein sculpture now permanently installed in the Julian Science Building. An article about this project was published in PLOS Biology in 2013. If you want to build your own protein sculpture, check out the Protein Sculptures web site.

Another recently completed project involved creating an iOS app to help students practice 3-dimensional thinking in organic chemistry. The app is called “Molecule Match”, and you can download it free from the iTunes store.

We’re also interested in molecular animation. We make animations; for example, this stop-motion animation of cyclohexane conformations, and this visualization of the HIV virus which won second place in the CGSociety autoPack challenge. We also develop tools to help others create molecular animations, such as proteinRig, a script that simulates the random motions of protein side chains inside professional animation software.

If you are a DePauw student and want to talk (about these projects, or even better, your own ideas), feel free to email me or stop by my office.