So I finally got around to purchasing and learning how to use Maya, the 3D modeling and animation software that is also used in gaming and many animated and CG-laden Hollywood movies. It's been widely adopted by science illustrators and animators, which made it an easy choice because there are some fantastic tutorials available for importing X-ray crystal structures from the PDB, not to mention many other tutorials that are specific to cellular and molecular processes.
Not long after, I was commissioned to create cover art for a journal that always has exquisitely beautiful covers. No metaphorical cartoons cutting it here. I knew I had to do something really striking, so I was relieved that I had added Maya to my skill set just in time. The paper is about the discovery of a link between a specific gene and the invasiveness of certain cancer cells, so I decided on a close-up of a metastasizing cancer cell invading neighboring tissue. Now, with this kind of ridiculously complicated (for a newbie) modeling project under my belt, I feel pretty comfortable with the software, even though I know I've only just scratched the surface. Animation, I'm coming for you next.
We are still waiting for a decision on the journal cover, but in the meantime it is being used by a couple of university news outlets. I'll post the original reference once the issue is out.