Biochemist creates glass fusion art inspired by science and nature

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Professor Carla Koehler’s glass artwork, inspired by her mitochondrial research and the natural beauty of California landscapes, is featured in the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation’s newsletter.

While on sabbatical in Washington, DC, Koehler learned glass fusing at the Art Glass Center at Glen Echo in Maryland and has continued to fuse glass, take classes and experiment. She was attracted to fused glass because her scientific background lends itself to the challenge of making art from glass. Koehler conceives ideas for original pieces and then designs the piece, cuts the glass, and fuses it in the kiln. The pieces are typically slumped and finished with a series of cold-working steps to generate the final piece of art. Her collection can be viewed on her website MITOARTGLASS.

Several of Koehler’s pieces are on display at the Luskin Center, along with artwork by other UCLA faculty members.

A member of the UCLA biochemistry faculty since 1999, Koehler’s research focuses on mitochondrial biogenesis, particularly the mechanism by which proteins are imported into the mitochondrial inner membrane and the process by which defects in mitochondrial protein translocation lead to disease. 

Koehler Glass Art

Examples of Koehler’s glass artwork, inspired by her research and the natural beauty of California landscapes.

From the UMDF Connect Newsletter:

Koehler UMDF Image

Meet Dr. Carla Koehler – Mito Artist

Perhaps you’ve met Carla Koehler, PhD, at UMDF’s Mitochondrial Medicine symposium; or, maybe you watched her provide information and education about mitochondrial disease on an ‘Ask the Mito Doc’ webcast. What you may not know is that when she is not in her lab at the University of California in Los Angeles, she creates beautiful pieces of glass fusion art.

It was during a sabbatical in Washington, DC, that Dr. Koehler started taking classes and experimenting with fused glass. It was her scientific background that helped her create art from glass. “I conceive ideas for original pieces from my research and nature around me,” Dr. Koehler said. Once she designs the piece, she cuts the glass and begins the steps to create a finished piece of art. “My glass artwork is inspired by my research studies and the natural beauty of our California landscapes,” Dr. Koehler said. She chooses her colors based on the changing hues of the ocean, the mountains and the desert.

It seems as though nature has been a constant guide for Dr. Koehler. Growing up on a farm in Wisconsin, she originally wanted to be a veterinarian. After spending a year in school to become a vet, Dr. Koehler realized that she wanted to pursue a career in research and applied to the graduate program at Iowa State University. She was introduced to mitochondria while in the master’s degree program in biochemistry at Iowa State. In 1999, she joined the Molecular Biology Institute at UCLA.

Currently, Dr. Koehler has her own lab at UCLA where she and her team conducts research that seeks to understand the dysfunction in mitochondria that can give rise to disease.

Many of the Dr. Koehler’s pieces are inspired by the mitochondria and her research.   See her collection at MIOTARTGLASS.


The United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation (UMDF) promotes research and education for the diagnosis, treatment and cure of mitochondrial disorders and to provide support to affected individuals and families.

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry,