After a year of temporary transfer from the Institute of clinical physiology – Pisa, the Institute of Biophysics officially welcomes researcher Monica Zoppè, an expert in computer graphics applied to the visualization of biological structures/molecules and of the processes in which they take part.
Trained as a biologist, Monica Zoppè experienced various fields, including intracellular transport, gene therapy models and chromatin conformation studies. In 2005, following a serious accident, the experimental activity leaves room for Molecular Graphics, a field where Dr. Zoppè certainly represents one of the pioneers at national and international level.
Among the different projects she is involved in, we find the study of flaviviruses in collaboration with CIGB (Centro de Ingenieria Genetica y Biotecnologia) and UCI (Universidad de Ciencias Informaticas) in La Havana – Cuba. A precious baggage that finds and offers support towards a recent collaboration with Dr. Mastrangelo and Dr. Milani (structural biology group in IBF – Milan) engaged since 2005 in the study of flavivirus proteins for the research of antiviral drugs. Furthermore, Dr. Zoppè participates in the creation of informative videos on structural biology and crystallography, to clarify their methods and applications, from the theme “Crystals in X-rays: from disease to treatment”, thanks to the AIC – Italian Crystallographic Association award, won by Francesco Bonì, PhD student at the IBF laboratories – Milan.
An important funding from the Tuscany Region in 2008 allowed Dr. Zoppè to create the SciVis – Scientific Visualization Unit (http://www.scivis.it/about), aiming to develop open source 3D visualization softwares (BioBlender http://www.bioblender.org/) and to represent biological structures, such as small molecules, proteins, and cellular components in motion (http://www.scivis.it/videos/). In these representations, some of which have received various awards and recognitions, including international ones, particular attention is paid to the dimensional relationship between species and molecular superstructures, to textures, to the randomness of movement and to the visualization of “intangible forces”, or chemical/physical properties. All ends up with a photorealistic representation, which can be defined as a kind of molecular realism, amplified by sounds that make the visual experience more vivid. The SciVis group is highly interdisciplinary and includes biologists, physicists, chemists, mathematicians, graphic artists, computer scientists and programmers (pictured). One of the most recent initiatives concerns the development of a system for the production of molds, dedicated to the production of protein models in silicone.
At an international level, Dr. Zoppè is active in the control and contrast of biological weapons, being part of the Pugwash group. In this regard, her speech entitled “Accidents, mistakes and COVID-19: risks and necessity of high-level biosafety labs” is scheduled for 13 October in a series of webinars (Global Peace and Insecurity: A Seminar Series) organized by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in Boston (https://radius.mit.edu/programs/global-peace-and-insecurity-seminar-series).