Staff Profiles

Graham Johnson, Ph.D.

Senior Director, Animated Cell

Graham Johnson is a computational biologist and Certified Medical Illustrator (CMI) with 18 years of professional experience ( He joins the Allen Institute from the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). There, his lab worked to generate, simulate and visualize molecular models of cells ( At the Allen Institute for Cell Science, Graham and his team will compile all experiment and imaging data into multi-scale, spatiotemporal and interactive models of the cell – via the Animated Cell Explorer.

Graham has specialized in the visual communication of molecular and cellular biology since graduating from The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Department of Art as Applied to Medicine in 1997. He illustrates the textbook Cell Biology by Tom Pollard, Bill Earnshaw, and Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz as an author, and has created thousands of scientific visuals ranging from journal covers to pedagogic animations and game designs. He received his PhD in Biology in 2011 from The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA, working in Art Olson’s Molecular Graphics Lab. Graham has run his lab at UCSF since 2012 as a QB3@UCSF Faculty Fellow where he now maintains a part-time position.

Ever since working on his first depictions of cell biology, Graham dreamed of being able to peer deep into a cell, to explore its structural relationships across all scales and to better understand its inner workings. He eventually returned to graduate school to establish protocols and develop software that could begin to assemble multitudes of fragmented data, spanning all of biology, into integrated whole-cell structural models. His lab’s Mesoscope project and his team here at AICS continue this mission by uniting biologists, programmers and artists to interoperate the computational tools of science and art. For examples of software and models developed in continued collaboration between MGL and the Mesocsope Lab, please visit and

Selected Publications

The Simularium Viewer: an interactive online tool for sharing spatiotemporal biological models

Nature Methods
April 4, 2022

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