2022 AMI Online Salon

The Sleepy Molecule – Melatonin

Project Details

  • Entrant Name:  Cassie Ren
  • Client: Faculty Advisor:  Derek Ng
  • Copyright:  Cassie (Fangyu) Ren, 2022
  • Medium/software used: UCSF Chimera, VMD, 3D Protein Imaging, Blender, Procreate, Adobe Illustrator,
  • Final presentation format: Two-page journal spread
  • Primary Audience: Educated lay public

Project Description

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland. Among other bodily functions, melatonin regulates circadian rhythms and sleep. As sleep-related issues have become more prevalent, the supplemental use of melatonin has increased over fourfold since 2000. I created this two-page illustration spread for a popular science magazine (e.g., Scientific American) to provide a basic understanding of melatonin’s molecular mechanism, including how it activates the melatonin receptor and the resultant cellular effects of this activation.  Melatonin synthesis varies throughout the day, reaching its peak at night. Inspired by this concept, I rendered the background to create a transition between night and day (i.e., left vs. right page). In addition, I positioned the melatonin molecules such that their flow from the background to the foreground directs the audience towards the binding of melatonin on the right side of the spread. Visual consistency is achieved by using the same light blue in all visual elements. To improve clarity, I arranged the sections chronologically following the synthesis of melatonin to its cellular effects. Colour coded text is used to highlight the key information in each section.