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.

World in a Cell: Phase 2 + 3

Mishari Aliesa – AR Student Developer
John Attard – VFX Specialist
Deena Baum – Rigging
Cornelius Bergen – Web Designer
Helen Berman – P.I., Scientific Advisor
Varinthorn Bulakul – AR Student Developer
Kylie Burdsall – Undergraduate Student Researcher
Brian Cantrell – Sound Designer, Design Researcher
Sharleen Chen – Creative Lead, Vis + Graphic Design
Sharvari Deshpande – AR Student Developer
Viviane El Kmati – VR Developer
Scott Fraser – Co-Director of the Bridge Institute
Jay Goldstuck – Video and Editorial
Jordan Halsey – Procedural Design Consultant
Nick Hawthorne – Writer
Laura Krause – Modeler
Niveditha Kumaran – AR Student Developer
Tiffany Lam – Animator and Rigger
Oscar Li – Lead Student Science Modeler
Dick Lowry – Producer
Vangelis Lympouridis – Project Advisor
Bethany Martin – VR Developer
Kyle McClary – Grad Student Lead, Project Co-Founder
Alex McDowell, R.D.I. – P.I., Creative Director
Colleen McGregor – Project Lead, Creative Producer
Matthew McGregor – Video and Editorial
Sanraj Mittal – Undergraduate Student Researcher
Abishek Narayanan – AR Student Developer
Jared Needle – Origami Artist
Steph Ng – Student VR Engineer
Rupsha Pradhan – Student VR Engineer
Nicholas Pudjarminta – Student VR Engineer
Poornima Raj – Student VR Engineer
Todd Richmond – Project Co-PI Phase 2
Alisa Romanova – Concept Art
Jitin Singla – Scientific Advisor
Edwin D. Sookiassian – Lead Student VR Developer
Liridona Sopjani – Researcher, City Scientist
Raymond C. Stevens – Co-Director of the Bridge Institute, Executive Producer
Shaoyu Su – Procedural Design Consultant
Alexandra Thomopoulos – Lead Modeler / Design Research Lead
David Turpin – VR Developer
Theotime Vaillant – Animator and Technical Artist
Ben Vance – VR Developer
Angela Walker – Program Director, Bridge Institute
Huijun Wang – Student VR Engineer
Kate White – Director, Pancreatic Beta Cell Consortium, Associate Director, Bridge Institute
Siyu Xie – Student VR Engineer
Bryan Zhang – Lead VR Developer and Interactive Design

Cell City: Phase 1

Design Team

Todd Richmond – Co-Principal Investigator
Alex McDowell, R.D.I. – Co-Principal Investigator
Ronni Kimm – Creative Director / Project Lead
Laura Cechanowicz – Visual Design Lead / Interaction Design / Research
Brian Cantrell – Design Research Lead / Visual Design / Sound Design Lead
Ishan Shapiro – Design Research
John Paul Francis – Design Research
Alisa Romanova – Concept Art
Kira Qwan – Producer
Sharleen Chen – Graphic Design
Rebekeh Bukhbinder – 3D Modeling
Brendan Ho – 3D Modeling

Science Team

Kate White

VR Development Team

Joseph Unger – Pigeonhole Productions
Trisha Williams – Pigeonhole Productions

Project Partners