Science is beautiful in so many ways. A clean western blot lends itself so nicely to a modern quilt design like in this quilt, but what is most beautiful to me about this quilt is what it represents – my love for an amazing female scientist and friend whose support was instrumental in me personally getting through graduate school. This quilt is based on a piece of data from my friend Ellen’s thesis research and was a gift from me to her to celebrate her achievement of her Ph.D. (I’m making all my Girls quilts to celebrate their graduations, so check out Erica’s Ninja Cells Quilt for the first in the series.)
I had a fun time quilting the quilt on my home sewing machine, and chose to use all white thread on a black backing so that the quilt design is visible on the back of the quilt. Triangles in the negative space at top echo the large triangle pieces and a chevron pattern covers the main portion of the quilt, echoing the chevron print used in the bottom portion of the quilt. It’s certainly not professional quilting and the straight lines aren’t always straight, but I like to think that their organic nature better reflects the imperfections we truly see when examining biology.
As I said, this quilt is based on data from my friend’s thesis research published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in a paper called “Hst3 is turned over by a replication stress-responsive SCF-Cdc4 phospho-degron.” The portion of the data that I turned into a quilt is a western blot, or a way of looking at specific proteins. What we see here is that, in the first four lanes, a protein (Hst3) is degraded over time (each lane has less protein or a smaller band than the lane before). In the next four lanes, we see that the degradation occurs much more quickly in the presence of hydroxyurea, a chemical that induces a cellular response to damaged DNA. In the next eight lanes we see that a small portion of Hst3 shows the same behavior as the full size protein, suggesting that that small portion of Hst3 contains the information important for regulating its degradation. (The final eight lanes of the western blot that are not in the quilt are a control showing that we don’t see the same behavior in a different protein).
At the bottom of the western blot (and the bottom of the quilt) are a probe for a different protein that acts as a “loading control” or a confirmation that the same amount of total protein is put into every lane so that you know that differences in signal you see in your protein-of-interest (in this case, Hst3) are true biological differences and not mistakes from inputting the incorrect amount into the western blot.
I had a fun time picking out an assortment of grey and black fabrics that mimicked the tonal qualities of the original western blot data. Even more, I had a fun time knowing that every moment, every stitch, was a part of a thank you to my good friend for her love and support, a celebration of her accomplishments, and a wish for her future success as a scientist!
P.S. If you have any interest in having this quilt pattern to make for yourself or would like your own data made into a modern quilt pattern, get in touch!