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Gace Hsu - Animating Science

Updated: Dec 18, 2021

Meet Grace Hsu:

Scientific Animator

Animation Lab at University of Utah Health

Her Work:

Making 3D illustrations and animations of molecules and viruses

As a child, Grace Hsu loved to watch Disney movies. She loved watching anime movies like Totoro and Spirited Away. Her dream was to animate movies for Disney. Part of that dream came true. She does make movies now. But not for Disney. She creates movies and beautiful 3D illustrations (models) for scientists. Instead of made-up stories, She creates movies and beautiful 3D illustrations (models) for scientists. Instead of made-up stories, she tells true stories about molecules and viruses. Her stories show us things too small to see with the naked eye. Her work helps scientists and ordinary people appreciate the inner workings of our cells.

See Photo 1 Info below for more information
Image 1: See More Image Info below

Grace’s work combines science and art. It demands a sense of curiosity and an eye for design. You don’t have to have a science degree. But you do need to have an interest in science. And you have to know how to learn more. You have to know how to interpret data. You have to be able to read and analyze what you read. It's important to understand what you are animating.

The true stories Grace tells are eye-opening. Often, they are more unbelievable than Disney movies. The molecular world is both mind-boggling and beautiful. And scientists are learning more every day. Grace says, “I am surprised about how much is still unknown and being discovered.”

Image 2: Can you find the Corona virus in this 3D model? (See More Image Info below.)

Grace says that if you want to be an animator, you can start now. Keep a sketchbook. Draw things that inspire you. You can find inspiring things to draw when you walk in the woods, or visit an art museum. Inspiration can come from anywhere, as long as you stay curious. Be constantly curious!

Grace made this video to show the long purple proteins that are part of a cell's defense system. They're working together to cage up an HIV virus. It's better than cops and robbers!

Grace says the only way to find out if you like to make movies is to make them. Try out some animation software. Follow the online tutorials. But remember that software is just a tool. Tools change. And the software doesn’t make the animation special. Your creative mind is what makes it special.

If you want to make movies, look around. Maybe you can find a true story to tell. Grace Hsu’s true stories show us real worlds, beyond what we could imagine. She lets us gaze upon the invisible world inside cells.

Media Credits

Photos and video courtesy of The Animation Lab at the University of Utah

Image 1 created with the Puglisi Lab at Stanford University

Photo of Grace Hsu at work was taken by Shraddha Nayak

More Image Information

Image 1: This image shows a type of virus protein making a copy of its genome blueprint.

Image 2: Grace made this model for Dr. Christopher Barnes. He investigates how viruses like HIV-1 and SARS-CoV2 engage host receptors and how our body’s immune response targets these outside invaders.

Read these fun science books to learn more . . .


The Magnificent Makers #2: Brain Trouble (Or any Magnificent Makers Books)

by Theanne Griffith

Violet and Pablo are best friends who love science! So when they discover a riddle that opens a magic portal in the brain fair at school, they can't wait to check it out! In this adventure, the friends enter the Maker Maze--a magical makerspace--along with a set of twins who are interested in learning all about the brain. The kids can't wait to solve science puzzles . . . if first, they can learn to work together!

You can even use art and science together using the directions in the back of the book to "Make a Brain" using common ingredients.


by Karyn Tripp

This book guides children ages 8 and up through hands-on activities that explore an engaging variety of art and craft techniques and science concepts, including:

  • Energy & Motion. Create art, toys, and sculptures that spin, flap, and climb.

  • Electricity & Magnetism. Make a pop-up card and pipe cleaner shapes that feature electrical circuits, and use magnets to draw and solve mazes.

  • Living Science. Craft plants into jewelry, create plantable seed paper, and use a straw to blow paint into a portrait of a neuron.

  • Chemical Reactions. Make an exploding paint bomb, grow crystal flowers, and use milk to make plastic.

  • Color & Light. Explore the science of color mixing, make marbled paper, and use the sun to make prints.

Take a creative path to studying science with Science Art and Drawing Games for Kids!


. . . and visit these websites!


Grace suggests you keep a sketchbook. Here's a fun activity for sketching nature.

Make a 2-frame animation with a strip of paper and a marker.

Check out the molecule of the month from the Protein Data Bank. You can look at the molecule and change it's style, color and spin. (It doesn't matter if you can pronounce it).

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