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Trance opera—Spente le Stellebe dramaticmore quotes

visualization: what we do


Scientific graphical abstracts — design guidelines


data visualization + art

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
The BC Cancer Agency’s Personalized Oncogenomics Program (POG) is a clinical research initiative applying genomic sequencing to the diagnosis and treatment of patients with incurable cancers.

Art of the Personalized Oncogenomics Program

Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.
— Richard Feynman

Art is Science in Love
— E.F. Weisslitz

what do the circles mean?

The legend can be printed at 4" × 6". The bitmap resolution is 600 dpi.


 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Quick legend. 5 Years of Personalized Oncogenomics Project at Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre. The poster shows 545 cancer cases. (zoom)

a case for a visual case summary

For every case, we sequence the DNA to study the genome structure and the RNA to discover which genes are expressed and to what extent. The analysis is quite complex and brings together many steps: sequence alignment, structural variation detection, expression profiling, pathway analysis and so on. Every case is "summarized" by a lengthy report, such as the one below, which can run to over 40 pages.

Personalized Oncogenomics Program at Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Center / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
A report for a typical POG case is about 40–50 pages.

One of the goals of the 5-year anniversary art was to represent the cases in a way to clearly show their number, classification as well as diversity. There are many metrics that can be used and I decided to choose the case's correlation to other cancer types.

correlation to TCGA cancer database

For every POG case, the gene expression of 1,744 key genes is compared to that of 1,000's of cases in the TCGA database of cancer samples. For a given cancer type in the TCGA database (e.g. BRCA), we visualize the correlations using box plots. The box plot is ideal for showing the distribution of values in a sample.

Personalized Oncogenomics Program at Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Center / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Every case is compared to a database of 1,000's of cases. Shown here are box plots for the Spearman correlation coefficient between the gene expression of the POG case and cancers of a specific type (e.g. BRCA, LUAD, etc). (zoom)

The 10 largest Spearman correlation coefficients for the case shown above are

case    corr    type     tissue
-----------------------------------------------
POG661	0.436	BRCA	 Breast
POG661	0.371	PRAD	 Urologic
POG661	0.295	OV	 Gynecologic
POG661	0.257	UCEC	 Gynecologic
POG661	0.244	LUAD	 Thoracic
POG661	0.235	CESC_CAD Gynecologic
POG661	0.225	MB_Adult Central Nervous System
POG661	0.222	KICH	 Urologic
POG661	0.219	THCA	 Endocrine
POG661	0.208	UCS	 Gynecologic

In the figure below I show how the final encoding of the correlations is done. First, the top three correlations are taken—using more generates a busy look and diminishes visual impact. The correlations are encoded as concentric rings.

Because in most cases the differences in the top 3 correlations are relatively small, differences are emphasized by non-linearly scaling the encoding (the correlations are first scaled `r^3`).

Personalized Oncogenomics Program at Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Center / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Case POG661. Median gene expression correlations with different cancer types from TCGA database. (A) Top 10 correlations shown as a bar plot. Color coding is by source tissue associated with the cancer type. (B) Top 10 correlations encoded as concentric rings. The width of the ring is proportional to the correlation. (C) Top 3 correlations. (D) Top 3 correlations scaled with a power to emphasize differences. (zoom)

The type face is Proxima Nova. The colors for each tissue source are

         Gastrointestinal  234,62,144
                   Breast  237,75,51
                 Thoracic  242,130,56
              Gynecologic  253,188,61
              Soft tissue  244,217,59
                     Skin  193,216,51
                 Urologic  114,197,49
              Hematologic  29,166,68
            Head and neck  43,168,224
                Endocrine  71,82,178
   Central nervous system  127,65,146
                    Other  150,150,150

VIEW ALL

news + thoughts

Music for the Moon: Flunk's 'Down Here / Moon Above'

Sat 29-05-2021

The Sanctuary Project is a Lunar vault of science and art. It includes two fully sequenced human genomes, sequenced and assembled by us at Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre.

The first disc includes a song composed by Flunk for the (eventual) trip to the Moon.

But how do you send sound to space? I describe the inspiration, process and art behind the work.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
The song 'Down Here / Moon Above' from Flunk's new album History of Everything Ever is our song for space. It appears on the Sanctuary genome discs, which aim to send two fully sequenced human genomes to the Moon. (more)

Browse the genome discs.

Happy 2021 `\pi` Day—
A forest of digits

Sun 14-03-2021

Celebrate `\pi` Day (March 14th) and finally see the digits through the forest.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
The 26th tree in the digit forest of `\pi`. Why is there a flower on the ground?. (details)

This year is full of botanical whimsy. A Lindenmayer system forest – deterministic but always changing. Feel free to stop and pick the flowers from the ground.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
The first 46 digits of `\pi` in 8 trees. There are so many more. (details)

And things can get crazy in the forest.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
A forest of the digits of '\pi`, by ecosystem. (details)

Check out art from previous years: 2013 `\pi` Day and 2014 `\pi` Day, 2015 `\pi` Day, 2016 `\pi` Day, 2017 `\pi` Day, 2018 `\pi` Day and 2019 `\pi` Day.

Testing for rare conditions

Sun 30-05-2021

All that glitters is not gold. —W. Shakespeare

The sensitivity and specificity of a test do not necessarily correspond to its error rate. This becomes critically important when testing for a rare condition — a test with 99% sensitivity and specificity has an even chance of being wrong when the condition prevalence is 1%.

We discuss the positive predictive value (PPV) and how practices such as screen can increase it.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Testing for rare conditions. (read)

Altman, N. & Krzywinski, M. (2021) Points of significance: Testing for rare conditions. Nature Methods 18:224–225.

Standardization fallacy

Tue 09-02-2021

We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty! —D. Adams

A popular notion about experiments is that it's good to keep variability in subjects low to limit the influence of confounding factors. This is called standardization.

Unfortunately, although standardization increases power, it can induce unrealistically low variability and lead to results that do not generalize to the population of interest. And, in fact, may be irreproducible.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Standardization fallacy. (read)

Not paying attention to these details and thinking (or hoping) that standardization is always good is the "standardization fallacy". In this column, we look at how standardization can be balanced with heterogenization to avoid this thorny issue.

Voelkl, B., Würbel, H., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2021) Points of significance: Standardization fallacy. Nature Methods 18:5–6.

Graphical Abstract Design Guidelines

Fri 13-11-2020

Clear, concise, legible and compelling.

Making a scientific graphical abstract? Refer to my practical design guidelines and redesign examples to improve organization, design and clarity of your graphical abstracts.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Graphical Abstract Design Guidelines — Clear, concise, legible and compelling.

"This data might give you a migrane"

Tue 06-10-2020

An in-depth look at my process of reacting to a bad figure — how I design a poster and tell data stories.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
A poster of high BMI and obesity prevalence for 185 countries.