Proteins are inherently three-dimensional, complex structures. To understand them, we need to simplify them to focus their main structural components. Jane Richardson has played a key role in the visual language that we use today when talking about proteins: ribbons and spirals. I interviewed her recently for the Sightings column in American Scientist.
If the name and work sounds familiar, you may remember her capstone talk at Vis 2006. Jane Richardson is a professor at Duke University, where she is now working on visualizing proteins and atom configurations in virtual environments (among many other things).