News Animals Molecular Biologist's Intricately Detailed Metal Sculptures Merge Art With Science Professor by day, sculptor by night. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast on September 14, 2021 LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a writer, fact checker, and conservationist with a certification in sustainability. Learn about our fact checking process on September 14, 2021 04:13PM EDT Dr. Allan Drummond Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices As recent events in the world are making plainly clear, there is a growing disconnect between the general public and the scientific community. This mistrust breeds the spread of dangerous misinformation and societal fragmentation, precisely at the time when humanity needs to act in solidarity on dire emergencies like the ongoing climate crisis. But a growing number of scientists are heeding the call to make their work more accessible to the wider public. Some are getting better at communicating the science in a way that the average person can understand, while others are turning to more creative modes of expression, like Dr. Allan Drummond, an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Chicago. By day, Drummond and his team at the Drummond Lab work on exploring things like the evolution of protein synthesis. Outside of the lab, Drummond spends his free time creating these remarkably realistic metal sculptures of prehistoric and recent insects—all cast out of various metals like bronze and silver. Dr. Allan Drummond To create these intricately detailed pieces, Drummond often starts with a pencil sketch, and a lot of research and photographic references to get the exact details right. Dr. Allan Drummond He pays particular attention to the underbellies of these ancient creatures, which have often been lost in the fossil record. Dr. Allan Drummond He then turns to a 3D modeling program called Blender, which helps him to virtually sculpt the three-dimensional aspects before the wax models for the metal casting process are additively manufactured by a 3D printing machine. Drummond says that Blender has a pretty steep learning curve, but it's the tool that has allowed him to realize his dream of creating these intriguing sculptures that fit into the palm of one's hand. Dr. Allan Drummond Some of the more complex pieces are cast in individual pieces before they are assembled with the help of local sculptor and jewelry designer Jessica Joslin and the jewelry designer Heather Oleari in Chicago. Beyond casting prehistoric trilobites, Drummond has also turned his attention to more contemporary subjects like this jumping spider, which Drummond has enlarged in scale to create an arresting facsimile. He says: "The jumping spider Naphrys pulex exploring his world with eight curious eyes. [..] A couple thousand setae (hairs) cover him in patches and whorls. I adore these animals, which are so interesting and interested in us, but are too small to meet properly. Consider this gent a jumper ambassador." Dr. Allan Drummond Our favorite is this striking sculpture of a treehopper—fascinating creatures that have the same mouthparts as a mosquito—but instead of sucking blood, treehoppers suck plant sap. Says Drummond: "A thorn bug treehopper in metal, evolved from Umbonia crassicornis. Or as she’s come to be known behind the scenes, plant shark. Her eyes came out red, a gift from the patina gods, and echoing her distant cousins in Brood X. Up top, she’s all armor, camo, and sex display. Underneath, she’s all business—plant-draining stylet and cocked jumping legs." Dr. Allan Drummond Other sculptures focus on more microscopic organisms, like this gorgeous piece of a yeast cell that is dividing. As Drummond recounts in a recent podcast: "That's a budding yeast cell—the model organism that we work on in my lab. I had this dream of making the kind of textbook cutaway, but with all the little details. The [outside is] 3D printed steel, the inside is 3D printed cast bronze, inside of that, those little jewels reaching toward each other, those are the chromosomes that are separating. This is the part of cell division called late anaphase, where the mother cell is splitting off from the daughter cell. Each chromosome—and there are eight of them; some yeast species have eight chromosomes—[is made of] apatite, a gemstone that gets its color from phosphorus, which makes up the backbone of DNA. The DNA of course, in a big long string, is what the chromosomes are, and that's what we pass onto our children." Dr. Allan Drummond One can really feel the passion and indefatigable curiosity that underlies these works of art. On the other hand, tactility and realism also help us to engage and connect with the actual science behind them. As Drummond tells This Is Colossal, it's all part of translating the process of scientific discovery: "So far, as a scientist, I’ve been on a slow journey to the bottom, to the deepest level of detail, from seeking to explain patterns of evolution spanning the tree of life, to probing how cells react to their environment, to tinkering with the pieces and parts of molecules swarming inside those cells. The details go all the way down, remaining absorbing and also consequential, worth knowing about and studying. That sensation of unexpectedly interesting detail is what I try to capture in my sculpture." To see more of his art or scientific research, or to purchase a sculpture, check out Drummond at Drummond Lab, Twitter, and on Instagram.