WEHI.TV animator Drew Berry awarded MacArthur Fellowship
Talented biomedical animator and WEHI.TV creator Drew Berry was this week awarded US$500,000 as one of 23 recipients of the 2010 MacArthur Fellowship.
Nicknamed the ‘Genius Award’, the Fellowship is a prominent prize awarded to United States citizens of any age, working in any field, who "show exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work." The Fellowship has no application; people are nominated anonymously to a small selection committee of about a dozen people, also anonymous.
“Receiving the MacArthur Fellowship has come to me as an enormous shock – I never expected anything like this,” said Mr Berry.
“It’s a deep honour and privilege to be recognised in such a way.”
Mr Berry’s animations are vivid, fascinating and scientifically accurate recreations of some of the most fundamental cellular and molecular processes that take place in the human body. As a cell biologist and world leading biomedical animator, Mr Berry constructs detailed animations that reveal the frontier of molecular and cell biology.
“Animation is a powerful tool for presenting ideas about science that are impossible to observe and difficult to imagine when described with words,” said Mr Berry.
Mr Berry’s most well known project, a groundbreaking portrayal of the complexity of DNA replication and transcription processes, earned him an Emmy award and a BAFTA in 2005. His work has appeared in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Smithsonian Museum and the Royal Institute of Great Britain.
Mr Berry has worked for the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research since 1998, and as the Director of WEHI.TV since 2003. With colleague Etsuko Uno, Mr Berry creates detailed visualisations of the inner workings of the immune system, the lifecycle of the parasite that causes malaria, and insulin production and Type 1 diabetes.
WEHI.TV explains the discoveries of scientists at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute through sophisticated and elegant animations. The objective is to raise public understanding and awareness of medical science through regular collaborations, while retaining quality control, to ensure the science is accurate and easily understood.
“My approach is the opposite tack to simplifying the science,” said Mr Berry.
“Rather than dumbing it down, I set out to show the audience exactly what the scientists are talking about. By building accurate visualisations founded on real scientific data, the animations come alive of their own accord, engage the audience, and go a long way towards explaining what the science is about. The science is rich, detailed and fascinating, and if you can watch it in action you will intuitively get to know how it works.”
The award was announced on Tuesday by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Past winners of the award come from a variety of creative fields and include paleontologist and science writer Stephen Jay Gould, and novelist Cormac McCarthy. Other recipients this year include the writer and producer of the critically acclaimed television show ‘The Wire’, a biophysicist, a type designer, a Pulitzer Prize winning author and a New York theatre director.