Iwasa, Janet , PhD

Research Interests

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


Lab Website


  • English

Academic Information

  • Departments: Biochemistry - Assistant Professor

Academic Office Information

  • 801-213-3425
  • Emma Eccles Jones Medical Research Building
    15 N Medical Dr E, Room: 3600C
    Salt Lake City, UT

Academic Bio

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

Type School Degree
Postdoctoral Fellowship Massachusetts General Hospital / Harvard Medical School and Museum of Science
Advisor: Jack W. Szostak
Postdoctoral Fellow
Doctoral Training University of California, San Francisco
Cell Biology, Advisor: R. Dyche Mullins
Undergraduate Williams College
Biology with Honors, Advisor: Rob Savage Double major in Asian Studies

Selected Publications

Journal Article

  1. Sinha NK, Iwasa J, Shen PS, Bass BL (). Dicer uses distinct modules for recognizing dsRNA termini. Science, 359(6373), 329-334.
  2. Schneberg J, Lee IH, Iwasa JH, Hurley JH (). Reverse-topology membrane scission by the ESCRT proteins. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol, 18(1), 5-17.
  3. Clapier CR, Iwasa J, Cairns BR, Peterson CL (). Mechanisms of action and regulation of ATP-dependent chromatin-remodelling complexes. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol, 18(7), 407-422.
  4. Chang YW, Rettberg LA, Treuner-Lange A, Iwasa J, Sgaard-Andersen L, Jensen GJ (). Architecture of the type IVa pilus machine. Science, 351(6278).
  5. Iwasa JH (2016 Apr). The Scientist as Illustrator. Trends Immunol, 37(4), 247-50.
  6. Iwasa J (2014 Oct 1). Crafting a career in molecular animation. Mol Biol Cell, 25(19), 2891-3.
  7. Orloff DN, Iwasa JH, Martone ME, Ellisman MH, Kane CM (2013 Jan). The cell: an image library-CCDB: a curated repository of microscopy data. Nucleic Acids Res, 41(Database issue), D1241-50.
  8. Iwasa JH (2010 Dec). Animating the model figure. Trends Cell Biol, 20(12), 699-704.
  9. LeClaire LL 3rd, Baumgartner M, Iwasa JH, Mullins RD, Barber DL (2008 Aug 25). Phosphorylation of the Arp2/3 complex is necessary to nucleate actin filaments. J Cell Biol, 182(4), 647-54.
  10. Iwasa JH, Mullins RD (2007 Mar 6). Spatial and temporal relationships between actin-filament nucleation, capping, and disassembly. Curr Biol, 17(5), 395-406.
  11. Vidwans SJ, DiGregorio PJ, Shermoen AW, Foat B, Iwasa J, Yakubovich N, OFarrell PH (2002 May 14). Sister chromatids fail to separate during an induced endoreplication cycle in Drosophila embryos. Curr Biol, 12(10), 829-33.
  12. Werbrock AH, Meiklejohn DA, Sainz A, Iwasa JH, Savage RM (2001 Jul 15). A polychaete hunchback ortholog. Dev Biol, 235(2), 476-88.
  13. Iwasa JH, Suver DW, Savage RM (2000 Jun). The leech hunchback protein is expressed in the epithelium and CNS but not in the segmental precursor lineages. Dev Genes Evol, 210(6), 277-88.


  1. Iwasa JH (2015 Apr). Bringing macromolecular machinery to life using 3D animation. [Review]. Curr Opin Struct Biol, 31, 84-8.


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


  1. Iwasa J (). The Science of HIV - A new online resource about HIV biology. RCSB PDB newsletter.
  2. Iwasa J (). Illustration of ribosome/Rqc complex. WIRED Science graphic of the week (online).
  3. Iwasa J, Guasco R (2015 May-Jun). A new look at how HIV works. A biologist turned animator offers new insight. Posit Aware (27(3), p. 23). United States.
  4. Reynolds, Sharon (). Media coverage, Meet Janet Iwasa. Biomedical Beat. NIGMS.
  5. Medeiros, Joao (). Media coverage, Biologists help create epic films on a micro scale. WIRED Magazine (UK).
  6. Owens-Liston, Peta (). Media coverage, Can scientific animations lead to new discoveries? Algortihms for Innovation Report. University of Utah Health Sciences.
  7. Kiefer, Julie (). Media coverage, When art and science intertwine. Explore Utah Science blog.
  8. Owens-Liston, Peta (). Media coverage, Crossing animation with molecules creates a whole new field. UUHS blog post.
  9. Yeates, Ed (). Media coverage, Scientist uses 3D animation to study cells, viruses. KSL televised news program.
  10. Kiefer, Julie (). Media coverage, Animated movies bring new insights to science. The Scope. University of Utah Health Sciences Radio.
  11. Lok C (). Media coverage, Biomedical illustration: From monsters to molecules. Nature (477(7364), pp. 359-61).
  12. Iwasa J (). Media Coverage, Janet Iwasa makes 3-D Movies about Molecules. EarthSky.
  13. Iwasa J (). Media Coverage, Cell Biology Animation: Janet Iwasa. iBioMagazine.
  14. Iwasa J (). Model animation (supplemental figure). Science (332(6030), pp. 680-6).
  15. Iwasa J (). Cover illustration. CBE - Life Sciences Education (10, p. 3).
  16. Iwasa J (). Media Coverage, Molecular Animation: Where Cinema and Biology Meet. New York Times.
  17. Iwasa J (). Cover illustration and model figures. Genes Dev (24(4), pp. 411-22).
  18. Iwasa J (). Model figure. Cell (141(4), pp. 668-681).
  19. Iwasa J (). Cover illustration. Mol Biol Cell (21(22)).
  20. Iwasa J (). Media Coverage, Visualizing Life’s Origins. Science Magazine Origins Blog.
  21. Fleischman, John (). Media Coverage, ASCB Profile: Janet Iwasa. ASCB Newsletter.
  22. Iwasa J (). Media Coverage, Where Art Meets Science. Chemical & Engineering News.
  23. Baker, Monya (). Media Coverage, Hollywood Gives Biologists a Helping Hand. Nature News.
  24. Olsen, Erik (). Media coverage, Molecular animation: Where cinema and biology meet. New York Times.
  25. Iwasa J (). Model animation (supplemental figure). Nature (460(7252), pp. 278-282).
  26. Iwasa J (). Model figures. Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol (13(25), pp. 329-54).
  27. Iwasa J (). Cover illustration and model figures. ACS Chem Biol (4(10), pp. 875-83).
  28. Iwasa J (). Model figure. Nat Struct Mol Biol (11, pp. 1173-7).
  29. Iwasa J (). Media Coverage, A Scientist’s Career in Pictures: A Harvard postdoc strikes out on her own as a science animator but remains close to the lab. Nature Networks Boston.
  30. Iwasa J (). Editorial illustration. Nature (451(10), p. 124).
  31. Iwasa J (). Cover illustration. Science News (173(2)).
  32. Iwasa J (). Cover illustration. J. Cell Biol (283(30)).
  33. Iwasa J (). Cover illustration. Cell (134(6), p. 5).
  34. Iwasa J (). Cover illustration. (128(3)). Cell.
  35. Iwasa J (). Cover illustration. Current Biol (17(5)).
  36. Iwasa J (). Cover illustration. J Mol Biol (368(3)).
  37. Iwasa J (). Cover illustration. Cell (130(4)).
  38. Iwasa J (). Editorial illustration. Nature Chem. Biol (3(9), p. 521).
  39. Iwasa J (). Cover illustration. J Cell Biol (179(5)).
  40. Iwasa J (). Cover illustration. Current Biol (16(20)).
  41. Iwasa J (). Cover illustration.. Cell (121(6)).


  1. Jennifer Bisset (). How Pixar's cartoon cheese led to a smarter view of science [Web]. CNET. Available: https://www.cnet.com/news/pixar-disney-animation-janet-iwasa-smarter-view-of-science/.
  2. PBS News Hour (). Brief but Spectacular [Video]. Available: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/brief/228376/janet-iwasa.
  3. The Limit Does not Exist Podcast (). This artist-scientist is making the invisible, visible [Podcast]. Available: https://www.cnet.com/news/pixar-disney-animation-janet-iwasa-smarter-view-of-science/.
  4. Iwasa J (). RCSB PDB Education Corner: The Science of HIV [Web]. RCSB PDB. Available: http://www.rcsb.org/pdb/general_information/news_publications/newsletters/2015q2/corner.html.
  5. Iwasa JH, Saldena, J (). TED Ed: Why it's so hard to cure HIV/AIDS [Web]. TED Ed. Available: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/why-it-s-so-hard-to-cure-hiv-aids-janet-iwasa.
  6. Iwasa J (). How animations can help scientists test a hypothesis [Video]. TED. Available: https://www.ted.com/talks/janet_iwasa_how_animations_can_help_scientists_test_a_hypothesis.