IN EARLY 2017, the World-building Media Lab (WbML) led by Professor Alex McDowell at USC School of Cinematic Arts, began this major collaboration with the Bridge Institute, to create a fully experiential virtual world of a single Pancreatic Beta Cell, using the metaphor of the complex systems of a city. The continuing goal is to use storytelling and world building to immerse both the lay-person and expert and engage them in levels of detail that are both scientifically accurate and approachable.

By creating a virtual world inside a cell, based on the structure and function of a pancreatic beta cell, this art-science collaboration will allow people to explore a rich biological world while engaging concepts, pathways, and implications through narrative, all backed by scientific rigor.

The World in a Cell project brings together a broadly interdisciplinary team of scientists, storytellers, artists, programmers, and conceptual thinkers, all with a proven track record of creating the next wave of content and experiences. This project contains aspects of healthcare, education, and STEAM and their outcomes, as well as providing an opportunity to further empower women moving into the scientific education and training pipelines. This project is also intended to reverse the City/Cell metaphor, using the PBC to investigate the diverse ways nature and her processes might inform and be applied to future urban design. We envision that our “World in a Cell” can serve as an extensible framework/platform that will allow other scientists to add their results, expand details, and connect related work.

Bridge Institute Team

Raymond C. Stevens – Co-Director of the Bridge Institute, Executive Producer
Todd Richmond – Co-Principal Investigator
Helen Berman – Scientific Advisor, USC Adjunct Faculty
Kyle McClary – Graduate Student Lead, Project Founder
Jitin Singla – Graduate Student Lead
Kylie Burdsall – Undergraduate Student Lead
Sanraj Mittal – Undergraduate Student Researcher

WbML Team

Alex McDowell, R.D.I. – Creative Director, PI
Colleen O’Halloran – Creative Producer
Sharleen Chen – Creative Lead, Visual and Graphic Design
Brian Cantrell – Audio Designer and Graduate Student Lead
Alexandra Thomopoulos – Lead Modeler
Bryan Zhang – VR Developer
Viviane El Kmati – VR Developer
Tiffany Lam – Animator and Rigger
Laura Krause – Modeler
Alisa Romanova – Concept Art
Matthew McGregor – Documentation Lead
Jay Goldstuck – Video and Editorial
Deena Baum – Rigging
Liridona Sopjani – City Scientist
Oscar Li – Lead Student Science Modeler
Edwin D. Sookiassian – Lead Student VR Developer
Huijun Wang – Student VR Engineer
Siyu Xie – Student VR Engineer
Rupsha Pradhan – Student VR Engineer
Poornima Raj – Student VR Engineer
Nick Hawthorne – Writer

Project Partners