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Basic Sciences Featured Images

The following images have been generated by students, postdocs, staff, or faculty affiliated with Basic Sciences. Each one is the product of hard work, both technical and creative, and has been selected as the banner image for our newsletter, Basically Speaking. If you are interested in having your image featured in our newsletter and in this gallery, please submit it here.

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Laura Geben – Ihrie lab & Serena Sweet – Simerly Lab

Immunolabeling-enabled three-dimensional imaging of solvent-cleared organs (iDISCO+) is a technique used to clear and immunostain organs, tissues, and even whole embryos. To obtain this image, Laura Geben(Pharmacology, Rebecca Ihrie lab) and Serena Sweet (MPB, Richard Simerly lab) used iDISCO+ to clear an embryonic mouse on day 13.5. The embryo was stained with an antibody against tropomyosin receptor kinase A (TrkA), a marker of the developing nervous system. After clearing, the embryo was then imaged on a light sheet microscope at the newly established Neurovisualization Lab.

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Featured in the August 2021 issue of Basically Speaking.

Maya Igarashi – Gould Lab

This image of mutant fission yeast cells was taken by Maya Igarashi, a research assistant in the lab of Kathy Gould (CDB). These mutant cells abnormally accumulate cell wall material at the septum (middle) and tips. Igarashi snapped this image for a study exploring cell wall construction in fission yeast, and stained the cells with the cell wall stains calcofluor (cyan) and FITC-lectin (magenta).

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Featured in the June 2021 issue of Basically Speaking.

Colbie Chinowski – Tyska Lab

This image, taken by Colbie Chinowski (CDB), a graduate student in the lab of Matt Tyska, shows a network of non-muscle myosin 2C, a protein expressed only in the inner ear, the intestines, and the pituitary gland, stretching across the apical surface of enterocytes (intestinal absorptive cells). Chinowski’s research focus has been on understanding the function and organismal localization of NM2C, which remains uncharacterized despite its very strong enrichment in the intestine.

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Featured in the April 2021 issue of Basically Speaking.

Robert Lavieri – VICTR

To cap the year, we’re featuring art by VICTR Senior Project Manager Robert Lavieri. He uses a program called UCSF Chimera to render images from coordinates in the Protein Data Bank. He then takes that “raw” image and modifies it in Photoshop to create art like this piece.
Here, Lavieri worked with 5DE5, the complex between the RGG motif of the human Fragile X mental retardation protein and G-quadruplex RNA. FMRP is a regulatory RNA binding protein that plays a central role in the development of several human disorders including Fragile X Syndrome and autism. In this image, you can see both the protein — a yellow ribbon — and a stretch of bound RNA — in rainbow colors. The red spheres are potassium cations.

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Featured in the December 2020 issue of Basically Speaking.

Fei Yang – Bordenstein Lab

This art piece was created by an Artlab Artist-in-Residence, Fei Yang, who worked in the lab of Seth Bordenstein in 2019. The image is meant to represent the work done in the Bordenstein lab, which focuses on animal-microbe associations. The teal portion represents Wolbachia-infected fruit fly testes, and the viral particles represent viral infections of the Wolbachia themselves. Wolbachia is a bacterial genus that infects many arthropod species and is perhaps the most common parasitic microbe on the planet. The nested symbiosis is represented by multiple layers of the cell separated by semi-circular membranes.

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Featured in the October 2020 issue of Basically Speaking.

Amy Stark – Penn Lab

Graduate student Amy Stark (Pharmacology) has been working on optimizing the growth conditions of retinal pigment epithelial cells. Although she expected to find an even monolayer of cells when she looked under the microscope, she instead found isolated cells in the shape of—of all things—Gonzo the Muppet! Although the immunocytochemistry she ran to validate the RPE cells’ identity did not show the expected tight junctions that would have indicated a monolayer, she got a kick out of seeing her cells. And just like Stark, we think it’s important to find the joy in the day-to-day of science, even when things don’t go right. View larger image.

Featured in the September 2020 issue of Basically Speaking.


Kendra Oliver

The cover of Vestigo and the banner for this month’s newsletter was drawn by Kendra Oliver, an assistant professor of pharmacology. She depicted an AMPA receptor, a glutamine receptor in the brain and the focus of study of Teru Nakagawa. A faculty member in Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Nakagawa’s work is highlighted in Vestigo’s first issue. Oliver’s science background and artistic talent allows her to represent scientific concepts in a visually stunning manner. View larger image.

Featured in the July 2020 issue of Basically Speaking.

Greg Salimando – Winder Lab

The image shown here was taken by Greg Salimando, a recent graduate from the lab of Danny Winder. It shows how mRNA transcripts for the N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) subunit GluN2D prominently co-localize with transcripts for the neuropeptide corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST). This 20X image of the mouse BNST shows individual neural cells counterstained with the DAPI nuclei stain, in blue, and labeled for transcripts of both GluN2D (red) and CRF (green). Greg’s research during his time in Dr. Winder’s lab concerned whether GluN2D-NMDA receptor activity in the BNST could regulate emotional behavior. See his recent paper (NMDA receptors are an appealing therapeutic target, above) for more information. View larger image.

Featured in the June 2020 issue of Basically Speaking.

Kit-Yi Yam & Jose Maldonado – Simerly Lab

The image shown here is a forebrain cross section derived from a 3D reconstruction of light-sheet fluorescence images of an optically cleared mouse brain. Using a technique called iDISCO+, postdoc Kit-Yi Yam and Research Instructor Jose Maldonado (Richard Simerly lab, MPB) optically cleared a mouse brain and immunohistochemically labeled it for an axonal marker (green) and a neuronal marker (red). They then imaged the entire brain to reveal the distribution of axonal projections from a subpopulation of hypothalamic neurons involved in feeding. View larger image.

Featured in the May 2020 issue of Basically Speaking.

Chuck Sanders – own lab

The Sanders lab is devoted to characterizing the structures, folding and misfolding, and molecular mechanisms of membrane proteins using a variety of biochemical and biophysical methods. This artwork was created by biochemistry faculty Chuck Sanders, and features the structures of a variety of membrane proteins relevant to his lab’s work. The background is a photo Sanders took of watercress growing in the crystal-clear Ninfa river in Italy, where the Romans believed river nymphs lived. View larger image.

Featured in the March 2020 issue of Basically Speaking.

Amy Kendall – Jackson Lab

Retromer is a protein complex found in endosomes that can load and ferry different kinds of cargoes to different cellular locations. This cryo-EM image of retromer shows it in a chain assembly formation. Image taken by Amy Kendall, lab manager of the Lauren Jackson lab.  View larger image.

Featured in the February 2020 issue of Basically Speaking.

Noel Maxwell – Chazin Lab

2D NMR plot of wild-type calmodulin (black) and a mutant (E104K, red). Calmodulin is a calcium-binding messenger protein that is critical for Ca2+ signaling, and the E104K mutation causes a dysfunction in calcium binding. Although most mutations are embryonic lethal, this particular mutant was identified in a little girl who had recurrent cardiac arrests caused by arrhythmia. This NMR plot was generated by Noel Maxwell, a former research assistant in the lab of Walter Chazin (Biochemistry). View larger image.

Featured in the January 2020 issue of Basically Speaking.


Eric Figueroa – Denton Lab


Eric Figueroa, from the lab of Jerod Denton, studies VRAC, an ion channel that conducts Cl and organic osmolytes out of cells to draw water out. In the lab, he exposes cells to a hypotonic solution to cause swelling, using a pipet to create a gradient. When swelling, the cell membrane detaches from the cytoskeleton, creating blebs (black arrow).  View larger image.

Featured in the December 2019 issue of Basically Speaking.


Kristin Peterson – Rhoades Lab

Some cancers metastasize specifically to the bone, and Kristin Petersen, a graduate student in the lab of Julie Rhoades, part of Vanderbilt’s Center for Bone Biology, studies one such cancer: oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). OSCC affects the cells that line the lips and the inside of the mouth and can invade the bones of the mandible. The image shows some cetuximab-resistant OSCC cells, which are more elongated and are more prone to migrating than non-cancer cells. The cells are stained in red (lipophilic dye), and their nuclei in blue (DAPI). View larger image.

Featured in the November 2019 issue of Basically Speaking.


Chris Hofmann – Emeson Lab

Chris Hofmann, a grad student in the lab of Ron Emeson, studies a G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) called mGlu4. This image shows a calcium-sensing assay that’s used to indirectly measure the activity of mGlu4. Each spot on this assay turns darker or lighter depending on the level of activity of the GPCR in each spot. When measured over time, Hofmann can see the intensity of the light increase and decrease. He is currently exploring how point mutations affect mGlu4’s function. View larger image.

Featured in the October 2019 issue of Basically Speaking.


Romell Gletten – Schey Lab

The stain is a wheat germ agglutinin-Alexa 647 stain of bovine lens posterior suture region. The region also includes lens fiber cell tips and the lens capsule (the solid red perimeter at the top of the image).

Romell Gletten is a graduate student in the Kevin Schey lab. He studies the mechanisms that mediate the cellular trafficking of critical proteins such as the aquaporins in lens fiber cells. This includes the investigation of these mechanisms under both normal physiology and cataractogenesis, in addition to relevant modulatory post-translational modifications. Romell primarily employs biochemical techniques, including mass spectrometry-based proteomics, and molecular biological methods to address this research focus in both humans and animal models. View larger image.

Featured in the September 2019 issue of Basically Speaking.


Alexandria Oviatt – Osheroff Lab

Alexandria Oviatt, a graduate student in the lab of Neil Osheroff, works with bacterial topoisomerases, enzymes that regulate supercoiling and that can remove knots and tangles from DNA. This image is a 2D gel that she generated after testing the ability of a Staphylococcus aureusgyrase (a type II topoisomerase that can introduce negative supercoils) to relax DNA. DNA can be electrophoresed on agarose gels to discern its supercoiling state, but positively and negatively supercoiled DNA run at similar speeds. To get around this problem, Oviatt runs her gels in two directions, which helps separate the different DNA species. This 2D gel shows a time course in which the gyrase relaxed positively supercoiled DNA (top left) before introducing negative supercoils (bottom right). Image courtesy of Alexandria Oviatt and Elizabeth Gibson.  View larger image.

Featured in the August 2019 issue of Basically Speaking.

Caroline Cencer – Tyska Lab

There is more to this artwork than meets the eye: this kaleidoscopic image is actually a single immunofluorescence slide that has been rotated three times about a corner. The artist and researcher, graduate student Caroline Cencer (lab of Matt Tyska), uses enterocytes to study the maturation of the intestinal brush border. In this image, the microvilli (magenta) are coming out of the screen toward the viewer.  View larger image.

Featured in the July 2019 issue of Basically Speaking.

Caroline Roe and Justine Sinnaeve – Ihrie and Irish Labs

Image courtesy of Caroline Roe and Justine Sinnaeve.

This image shows a glioblastoma tumor that was frozen, sectioned, and stained with metal-tagged antibodies; 7 (out of more than 30) markers are shown in this particular visualization. This image is exemplary of a pilot project between the labs of Rebecca Ihrie and Jonathan Irish to bring imaging mass cytometry (IMC) to Vanderbilt. IMC allows researchers to identify 30-35 different markers to get a nuanced understanding of the types of cells that are present in a single sample, like with mass cytometry, except that IMC allows them to discern structural and spatial relationships between cell subsets. Caroline Roe is a program manager in the Irish lab and Justine Sinnaeve is a graduate student in the Ihrie lab.  View larger image.

Featured in the June 2019 issue of Basically Speaking.

Kensei Taguchi – Brooks Lab

Autophagosomes in kidney tissue using an RFP-GFP-LC3 reporter mouse. Shown in super-resolution structured illumination microscopy (SIM). Tissue sections were stained for GFP (green), RFP (red), KIM-1 (magenta), and DAPI (blue).  View larger image.

Featured in the May 2019 issue of Basically Speaking.



Caitlin Sprowls – Bordenstein Lab

Histological sections of California sea lion whiskers, trichrome stained and then color manipulated in photoshop. Image courtesy of ArtLab, taken by Caitlin Sprowls of the Seth Bordenstein lab.  View larger image.

Featured in the April 2019 issue of Basically Speaking.







Amrita Pathak – Carter Lab

Primary sympathetic neurons cultured in microfluidic devices. Cells are stained with neuronal marker TUJ1 (green) and nuclei are labeled with DAPI (blue). Submitted by Amrita Pathak, Research Instructor in the lab of Bruce Carter. (Image courtesy of ArtLab.)  View larger image.

Featured in the March 2019 issue of Basically Speaking.









Nilay Taneja – Burnette Lab

Embryonic Stem Cell Colony
Shown is a colony of human embryonic stem cells showing the actin cytoskeleton (magenta), myosin motors (cyan) and DNA (yellow). Embryonic stem cells, that give rise to all tissues in the body, hold great potential in designing cell-based therapies for multiple diseases. Studying the cytoskeleton of these cells helps us understand how they respond to their mechanical environment and how that affects their ability to both retain their identity or differentiate into specific cell types. Technique used- Confocal microscopy, large image stitching.

Image taken by Nilay Taneja, a graduate student in the Dylan Burnette lab. View larger image.

Featured in the February 2019 issue of Basically Speaking.