In my process, I use colonies of human cells which carry different mutations. I modify these cells by using molecular engineering of corals that grow on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, and glow in the dark when the UV sun rays hit the water. By transferring pieces of DNA from corals, human cells are made to glow in the dark and I visualize their behavior with a laser scanning microscope. Just like a street photographer, I look for a charged moment and create a composition. Then I snap a microphotograph or microfootage, which serve as preliminary data to design further studies. Layer upon layer, rational experiment design and intuition intertwine. I end with terabytes of images that are analyzed with help of artificial intelligence, stripping them from their visual nature by conversion to numbers. Only the most striking images avoid this destiny, by being formulated as pieces of art.
Dr. Bojana Gligorijevic was trained as a chemist at PMF, Belgrade. She received her PhD in biophysics from Georgetown Univrersity in Washington. In Albert Einstein, New York, she developed methods to image cancer in real-time and calculate metastatic probability using these images. She is currently an Assistant Professor in Bioengineering Department at Temple University in Philadelphia and leads a lab of six people.
Behind the scenes
Daily routine in Gligorijevic lab consists of several hours of micro-photoshoots ie. micro-shoots, during which Bojana acts as a director of photography. In a room with highly controlled pressure, temperature and airflow, the multimodal microscope lies mounted on an anti-vibration table. Under the table, there are four lasers emitting different wavelengths, each laser serving as a light source for one of the colors on the micrographs. In order to focus the laser light precisely on the microscope objective, optical elements, such as the mirrors and filters, are weekly re-aligned and re-centered, in turn correcting for minute shifts which stem from vibrations or temperature changes. Following the tuning procedure, microscope is used to record microfootage of living cells as they travel along the collagen fibers towards the blood vessels. Each of the components is characterized by its fluorescent color: for example, collagen fibers are purple, blood vessels are red, cells are blue.