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Janet Iwasa

Janet Iwasa, PhD

Languages spoken: English

Academic Information

Departments Primary - Biochemistry

Academic Office Information

Research Interests

  • Molecular Animation
  • Multimedia
  • Visualization
  • Education
  • Cell Biology
  • Biochemistry

Janet Iwasa is an Assistant Professor in the Biochemistry Department at the University of Utah. Her broad goal is to create accurate and compelling molecular and cellular visualizations that will support research, learning and scientific communication. Janet's award-winning illustrations and animations have appeared in scientific journals including Nature, Science and Cell, as well as in the New York Times. Her work has also been featured on television and in museum exhibits. Janet was named a 2014 TED fellow and recognized as one of the "100 Leading Global Thinkers" of 2014 by Foreign Policy magazine and one of the “100 Most Creative People” of 2012 by Fast Company magazine. As a postdoctoral fellow, she created a multimedia exhibit with Nobel Laureate Jack Szostak (Harvard University) and the Museum of Science, Boston, and later worked on biological visualizations as a faculty member at Harvard Medical School. She received her Ph.D. in 2006 from the University of California, San Francisco for her work on the actin cytoskeleton in the laboratory of Dyche Mullins, and completed 3D animation training at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects later that same summer.

Education History

Postdoctoral Fellowship Massachusetts General Hospital / Harvard Medical School and Museum of Science
Postdoctoral Fellow
University of California, San Francisco
Undergraduate Williams College

Selected Publications

Journal Article

  1. Riggi M, Iwasa JH (2023). An educational visual resource to support understanding of liquid-liquid phase separation. Biochem Mol Biol Educ.
  2. Hurt E, Cheng J, Baler J, Iwasa J, Beckmann R (2023). SnapShot: Eukaryotic ribosome biogenesis I. Cell, 186(10), 2282-2282.e1.
  3. Iwasa J (2023). Janet Iwasa. Curr Biol, 33(3), R87-R89.
  4. Lyall K, Iwasa JH, Goodsell DS, Holt L (2022). Communicating science through visual means. Trends Biochem Sci, 48(1), 2-4.
  5. Imoto Y, Raychaudhuri S, Ma Y, Fenske P, Sandoval E, Itoh K, Blumrich EM, Matsubayashi HT, Mamer L, Zarebidaki F, Shl-Kielczynski B, Trimbuch T, Nayak S, Iwasa JH, Liu J, Wu B, Ha T, Inoue T, Jorgensen EM, Cousin MA, Rosenmund C, Watanabe S (2022). Dynamin is primed at endocytic sites for ultrafast endocytosis. Neuron, 110(17), 2815-2835.e13.
  6. Liu H, Riggi M, Rogers J, Meyer M, Iwasa JH (2022). A new tool for annotating scientific animations and supporting scientific dialogue. PLoS Biol, 20(8), e3001731.
  7. Iwasa JH (2021). Using animation to mediate scientific discourse. Nat Microbiol, 7(1), 3.
  8. Watanabe S, Davis MW, Kusick GF, Iwasa J, Jorgensen EM (2020). SynapsEM: Computer-Assisted Synapse Morphometry. Front Synaptic Neurosci, 12, 584549.
  9. Rimel JK, Poss ZC, Erickson B, Maas ZL, Ebmeier CC, Johnson JL, Decker TM, Yaron TM, Bradley MJ, Hamman KB, Hu S, Malojcic G, Marineau JJ, White PW, Brault M, Tao L, DeRoy P, Clavette C, Nayak S, Damon LJ, Kaltheuner IH, Bunch H, Cantley LC, Geyer M, Iwasa J, Dowell RD, Bentley DL, Old WM, Taatjes DJ (2020). Selective inhibition of CDK7 reveals high-confidence targets and new models for TFIIH function in transcription. Genes Dev, 34(21-22), 1452-1473.
  10. Nguyen HC, Talledge N, McCullough J, Sharma A, Moss FR 3rd, Iwasa JH, Vershinin MD, Sundquist WI, Frost A (2020). Membrane constriction and thinning by sequential ESCRT-III polymerization. Nat Struct Mol Biol, 27(4), 392-399.
  11. Nayak S, Iwasa JH (2019). Preparing scientists for a visual future: Visualization is a powerful tool for research and communication but requires training and support. EMBO Rep, 20(11), e49347.
  12. Cooney I, Han H, Stewart MG, Carson RH, Hansen DT, Iwasa JH, Price JC, Hill CP, Shen PS (2019). Structure of the Cdc48 segregase in the act of unfolding an authentic substrate. Science, 365(6452), 502-505.
  13. Han H, Fulcher JM, Dandey VP, Iwasa JH, Sundquist WI, Kay MS, Shen PS, Hill CP (2019). Structure of Vps4 with circular peptides and implications for translocation of two polypeptide chains by AAA+ ATPases. Elife, 8.
  14. Andreotti AH, Joseph RE, Conley JM, Iwasa J, Berg LJ (2018). Multidomain Control Over TEC Kinase Activation State Tunes the T Cell Response. Annu Rev Immunol, 36, 549-578.
  15. Sinha NK, Iwasa J, Shen PS, Bass BL (2017). Dicer uses distinct modules for recognizing dsRNA termini. Science, 359(6373), 329-334.
  16. Iwasa JH (2016). The Scientist as Illustrator. Trends Immunol, 37(4), 247-50.
  17. Chang YW, Rettberg LA, Treuner-Lange A, Iwasa J, Sgaard-Andersen L, Jensen GJ (2016). Architecture of the type IVa pilus machine. Science, 351(6278), aad2001.
  18. Iwasa JH (2010). Animating the model figure. Trends Cell Biol, 20(12), 699-704.


  1. Iwasa JH, Lyons B, Johnson GT (2022). The dawn of interoperating spatial models in cell biology. [Review]. Curr Opin Biotechnol, 78, 102838.
  2. Richter WF, Nayak S, Iwasa J, Taatjes DJ (2022). The Mediator complex as a master regulator of transcription by RNA polymerase II. [Review]. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol, 23(11), 732-749.
  3. Sinclair R, Hsu G, Davis D, Chang M, Rosquete M, Iwasa JH, Drakakaki G (2022). Plant cytokinesis and the construction of new cell wall. [Review]. FEBS Lett, 596(17), 2243-2255.
  4. Nayak S, Liu H, Hsu GI, Iwasa JH (2020). Using 3D Animation to Visualize Hypotheses. [Review]. Trends Biochem Sci, 45(7), 633-634.
  5. Clapier CR, Iwasa J, Cairns BR, Peterson CL (2017). Mechanisms of action and regulation of ATP-dependent chromatin-remodelling complexes. [Review]. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol, 18(7), 407-422.
  6. Schneberg J, Lee IH, Iwasa JH, Hurley JH (2016). Reverse-topology membrane scission by the ESCRT proteins. [Review]. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol, 18(1), 5-17.
  7. Iwasa JH (2015). Bringing macromolecular machinery to life using 3D animation. [Review]. Curr Opin Struct Biol, 31, 84-8.


  1. Iwasa, JH and Marshall, W (December 2015). Karp's Cell Biology: Concepts and Experiments (8). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.


  1. Lyons B, Isaac E, Choi NH, Do TP, Domingus J, Iwasa J, Leonard A, Riel-Mehan M, Rodgers E, Schaefbauer L, Toloudis D, Waltner O, Wilhelm L, Johnson GT (2022). The Simularium Viewer: an interactive online tool for sharing spatiotemporal biological models. [Letter to the editor]. Nat Methods, 19(5), 513-515.


  1. Iwasa JH, Saldena, J (2015). TED Ed: Why it's so hard to cure HIV/AIDS [Web]. TED Ed. Available: