Skip to main content

Long lecturer to discuss ‘spiky blob seen around the world’

Share on:

Posted on Monday, October 30, 2023

Dr. Kathleen Howard, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Swarthmore College, will present the 16th Annual Ken and Nancy Long Chemistry Lecture at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, in Hoyt Science Center 101.

In her lecture, “The Spiky Blob Seen Around the World,” Howard will discuss how the public reacts to images of the coronavirus—the “spiky blob.” She will explain how the spikes on the image of the coronavirus play an essential role in how the virus infects a cell, as well as how they work on the molecular level.

“The spiky blob image grabbed the general public’s attention, perhaps in a way never experienced before with a health crisis. As the pandemic stretched on, the original coronavirus images morphed into more whimsical representations and cartoons that reflected how the pandemic infiltrated all aspects of life,” said Howard, adding that she will also touch upon how viruses were represented in the popular press long before the technology existed to visualize things as small as viruses.

Howard’s research focuses on the use of magnetic resonance spectroscopy to investigate the structural and dynamic properties of membrane-bound molecules.

Howard earned her undergraduate from Princeton University, a Ph.D. from Yale University, and conducted a postdoctoral fellowship in chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania.

Presented by Westminster’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, the lecture series is funded by Dr. Ken Long, Westminster professor of chemistry emeritus, and his wife, Nancy, to invite chemists to speak with students on campus.

The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, please contact Dr. Jessica Sarver, chair of the chemistry and biochemistry department, at