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PyMOL360: multiuser PyMOL

Fun Educational Software for Students and New Scientists

        PyMOL is a flagship software capable of viewing a wide array of biological molecules in 3D. However, familiarity among new scientists and students is often lost in the visual complexity and non-intuitive controls. To facilitate the use of PyMOL in both education and professional contexts, we've developed PyMOL360, connecting multiple users to the same PyMOL session via gaming controllers.

Why We Love it

        Have you ever wished you could show a friend, colleague, or student why synthetic biology is so cool on the molecular level? We certainly have, but its always challenging to really grasp their attention. You can show them pictures and graphs, but what if they could be put in the driver's seat, steering and formatting a protein in real-time? That's where PyMOL360 comes in. Through some fancy footwork, we have developed a script that takes your PyMOL session to the next level, detecting any gamepads or controllers you have connected to your computer. Want to point out something useful when their playing around? Not a problem! This software supports up to four users on the same session, at the same time. With tons of user manipulation for controls, display options, structures, user profiles, the possibilities are countably infinite!

How it works

        The classic versions of PyMOL operate out of Python 2.5 (Python 2.7 in newer versions). Python is a highly modular programming language with tons of modules by other developers. The key module we used was Pygame, which was originally intended for game design in Python. We hooked up that package to PyMOL and started interpreting joystick inputs. With the PyMOL command module, we were able to map each of these inputs to a particular set of commands. We then wanted to extend the usability to any kind of molecular researcher, so we a added heads-up display (HUD), settings menus, and profile memory (in case you want to show someone a specific picture right after starting up!).

How to get it

        To get a copy to try out for yourself, head on over to my Github page:

or contact:

Patrick V. Holec
University of Minnesota

Compatibility is currently limited to PyMOL for Windows, but Mac and Linux are next on the list and will be addressed in the very near future!