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The Pathogenic Manipulation of Actin


Actin acts as the foundation for numerous cellular processes, ranging from cell motility to cancer metastasis, therefore an understanding of it is fundamental to identify its function in health and disease. In addition to its role in cellular processes, the actin cytoskeleton is a key player in the invasion and spread of infectious pathogens, which are the 2nd leading cause of death worldwide.


The aim of this MRP is to communicate the importance of actin by relating it to the compelling topic of pathogenic invasion. This will ensure that viewers gain a deep understanding of the dynamic actin cytoskeleton and will be able to apply this foundational knowledge to a broad array of topics, ranging from therapeutics to the role of actin in cellular processes.


Audience: Undergraduate students

Software: Maya, ZBrush, After Effects, Premiere Pro

Format: 3D animation


Primary Supervisor
Jodie Jenkinson

Director/Associate Professor
University of Toronto

Secondary Supervisor
Nicholas Woolridge


Acting Associate Director/Associate Professor
University of Toronto

Content Expert

Gaël McGill


Director of Molecular Visualization and Founder/CEO of Digizyme Inc.
Harvard Medical School

Content Expert
Susan Keen

MSc, PhD

Professor of Teaching

University of California Davis


Funding is provided by The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

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With the topic for my MRP chosen, I began to conduct a detailed literature review to gain a deep understanding of both the science behind the topic of pathogenic invasion, as well as visualization methods that are the most effective for teaching a general audience. I compiled this research into a proposal for my committee members to demonstrate the approach I planned on taking for my animation. 


Based on the preliminary research from my proposal, I created a script to establish the narrative of my story as well as to plan out scenes for the storyboard. Since the audience for my MRP is undergraduate students, I worked to create a narrative that was easy to follow and understand, but still provided enough information for the viewer to leave with a clear understanding of both the actin cytoskeleton as well as mechanisms of pathogenic invasion. I used language that could be understood by an educated audience and worked with various educators and undergraduate students to ensure that the level of detail was appropriate. I wanted to ensure that the viewer would understand the foundational aspects of the dynamic nature of actin (ie. both the branched and unbranched nature of actin), so I focused on methods of pathogenic invasion that utilized these concepts. 


Following the creation of my script, I created a storyboard to map out my visual ideas and to get a sense of how the animation would be visually presented. I accounted for both character movements as well as camera movements so that I could easily communicate my vision to my committee members. 


Following the creation of the storyboard, I created the animatic in After Effects to ensure that my narration flowed with the visuals presented. I used colour in the creation of my animatic to ensure clarity of the concepts being presented. Once the first draft of the animatic was created, I shared the piece with my committee as well as with several undergraduate students, making changes according to feedback. View the final animatic below!

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