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What We Create

Infectious Disease in 3D Program


Supported By

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Infectious Disease in 3D (ID in 3D) is a year-long program where students design and build virtual or augmented reality (VR or AR) environments that represent biological processes that are too small to see in real life. These environments are then used to improve science literacy about infectious diseases in both the classroom and the general public.Who participates in the program: ID in 3D integrates art, biology, and computer science and attracts diverse students from a range of disciplines. The program is run by faculty and staff from the department of Biology and the Scholar’s Lab at UVA Library (Jennifer Guler, Michelle Warthan, and Arin Bennett). So far (since inception in 2019), only undergraduate students have participated in the program but there are opportunities for graduate students and others to get involved.More details about the program: Applications are accepted in the spring. During the summer/early fall, students attend a series of technical and biological “boot camps”. Then they choose the topic and the target audience (as a group or individually), which could range from science/non-science majors to the general public. They research the subject matter (including interviews of experts in the field and potential users), plan visuals using storyboarding and concept art, and decide the best approach for enhanced learning (i.e. VR or AR). Then, with input from technical, visual, and biological team members, they construct the required assets for each project (models and environments) and assemble the content into a VR or AR experience. In addition to learning the technical aspects of a new medium, students develop artistic, scientific, and organizational skills in an informal environment.Future opportunities: Starting in 2022, we will engage local K-12 teachers and students to identify limitations of implementing VR-based learning and improve awareness of their educational benefits. Contact Jennifer Guler (jlg5fw) if you are interested in getting involved. 

'21-'22 Project: "HPV: the virus, vaccine and more"

This project is a virtual reality animation about Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and the protective vaccines available. Even though this vaccine is readily available in the US and parts of the world, many parents are still hesitant to vaccinate their children. This project is an exploration of the virus itself, the infection, and the development of cervical cancer to demonstrate the potential dangers of HPV. We examine the vaccine to find out what it’s made of and how it works to protect against HPV. The goal of this project is to encourage you to vaccinate your children against HPV.


Project Lead

Lillian Way

4th Year, Biomedical Engineering


Project Lead

Bezawit Gashe

3rd Year, Biology


Project Lead

Shelby Lawton

4th Year, Biology & Studio Art


Project Lead

Elise Carey

3rh Year, Biomedical Engineering

Relive our 2021 Symposium Featuring Shauna Heller (from March 30th, 2021)

Video links:

Intro by Jennifer Guler, IDin3D Director

Keynote/Shauna Heller

ID in 3D team

Guest Speaker/Will Rourke

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'20-'21 Project: "Behind the Mask: SARS-CoV-2"

Overtaking the world at an alarming rate, who would’ve known that a mere 70–90 nm particle could change everything as we know it? In this virtual reality simulation, “Behind the Masks: SARS-CoV-2”, the journey of the virus is observed as it travels from one person to another through airborne transmission, wreaking havoc and proliferating at an alarming rate. Now... what would have happened if those two people had just worn masks? What if everyone had just worn masks? Would mass destruction still ensue? Could the spread have been slowed down? Through this simulation, the audience will learn what actually happens as the virus enters the body through airborne transmission, how the mutation occurs, the impact two people can make on a town, and what could have happened if it had just stayed “Behind the Mask”.

Project Leaders: Emily Pham, Aidan Houser, Eve Costanz, Katherine Martin

'19-'20Project: "Resistance"

A student dons their virtual reality headset and enters a dark space with a bacterial cell floating before them. The student has the opportunity to walk around the bacterium — to touch, move, and examine its thick cell wall and flagellum. With a touch, the cell splits in half lengthwise and the student passes through the outer and inner membranes and into the busy cytosol. A tangled single circular chromosome rests to the left as free ribosomes zip around the cell. Suddenly, a plasmid floats into view. The student studies components of the plasmid, including the tra genes that contain the information for formation of the conjugative pilus. Another plasmid gene, which pulses slightly to highlight its significance, confers antibiotic resistance to the bacterium that harbors it. The student moves aside as transcription and translation machinery cluster around the plasmid, spewing out active proteins. Seeing action up ahead, they step through the membranes as a set of complex membrane-spanning machinery is assembled behind them. After pausing the chaos, the student appreciates the multiple subunits that come together to form this machine. From the outside of the cell, the conjugative pilus extends from the machine and attaches to the surface of another bacterium that arrives on the right. A quick flick renders the pilus transparent and the student observes a broken strand of the plasmid traveling through to the donor bacterium, which has now become antibiotic resistant. The student removes their headset and jots down all that they have observed in preparation for their exam tomorrow in class.

Project Leads: Emily Puleo, Cecily Wolfe, Peyton Billips, & Lindsey Manning

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