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Student blends the art of science with entrepreneurship

Katie Cowart

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, University of Georgia student Daniel Rouhani had to reimagine his research so he could continue his work as a CURO Summer Fellow. Then something struck him. “Recent discoveries in COVID-19 were emerging, and I noticed the lack of accurate visualizations available to explain the complexities of the disease,” he said.

Following that intuition, Rouhani taught himself how to 3D model and visualize COVID-19 proteins the summer after his freshman year.

The image he created became one of the most internationally referenced visualizations of the SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein. It was the top image on Google images and was referenced in Forbes Magazine. Soon, scientists throughout the academic community contacted him to create visuals for their own research.

“I was shocked by the impact I was able to make with one image,” said Rouhani. “At such a critical period in science and medicine, I was able to do my part to make a change in how COVID-19 was being seen.”

Rouhani, who is majoring in genetics, began studying at UGA when he was a senior in high school, working in the laboratory of Janet Westpheling, a professor in the UGA genetics department.

“The idea of translating a protein structure into beautiful pictures was truly visionary,” said Westpheling.

The positive response to Rouhani’s images inspired him to found ExonScientific, a 3D design company. His goal is to give scientists the ability to better communicate their research through scientific art and design.

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Image: Daniel Rouhani

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