Molecular Art with Dr. Mike McCormick (xtal_xlear)

We are all used to living by our routine, visiting the same places, possibly drinking the same products, and having the same hobbies. However, at some point, these tasks begin to feel old, and we start closing our eyes to the beauty living within our world, something way smaller, something that brings fascination to the world we are used to living in, something in molecular size.

Usually, artists love to depict what is seen by the naked eye through their perception. Some leave their imagination to paint what they see through their mind, and some portray what is hidden from the naked eye yet present in our everyday lives. Molecules! 

To understand more about the beauty of these molecules and how they can be seen as an art form, we spoke to the crystallographer Dr.Mike McCormick (xtal_xlear).



When did you first learn about psychedelic compounds, and what triggered your interest?

I’ve been interested in psychedelic compounds my entire adult life.  Learning about their effect and history, early in college, certainly solidified my interest.


Your work is very dedicated to molecular structures and receptors. When did you start feeling that these structures could be a model of art?

Thanks! I first fell in love with molecular graphics in graduate school at MIT, where I became a protein crystallographer.


How is your creative process when doing your edits? Where do you fetch your inspiration?

I typically draw my inspiration from music. Specifically, Grimes, Richie Hawtin, Kedr Livanskiy, Kool Keith, Dua Lipa, and MoMA Ready.          But also just day to day experiences with nature like seeing rustling leaves or flowing water.


What is your favorite molecule, and why?

Water. It has so many interesting properties! Plus it’s so key to life, despite the fact that it’s an inorganic compound. Tied with water would be human serotonin receptor 5H2b, because that molecule has such control of our moods.


To someone who is studying the field of chemistry and doesn’t find these molecules attractive, do you have any tips to make people fall in love with them?

My advice would be to study partial symmetry and molecular orbital energy diagrams.


Your work focuses mainly on the 3D format of molecules. Do you believe visualizing these molecules in 3D can augment the interest and make it easier to understand?

Absolutely!  I’m a highly visual person, and as a crystallographer I have determined protein structures and used them to better understand structure and function in various biological systems.  Function flows from structure.









Do you believe that presenting complicated data in an artistic/media-oriented format will cultivate the interest of the masses in subjects like pharmacology/chemistry?

Yes and that is exactly why I make the content that I share as xtal_xlear!


Lastly, where can people find your work?

My artwork, which is a hobby, can be found on Instagram and YouTube as xtal_xlear.  My scientific work is published in the chemical and biochemical literature. I also work as a consultant and executive for a variety of companies in the cannabis and psychedelic sectors.

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