How A 12-Year-Old Turned The Coronavirus Genome Into Music

“It’s not exactly enjoyable. It’s just interesting to me that it creates rhythms.”

By Joy DiazApril 20, 2020 9:43 am, , ,

Umar Mohammad is studying the coronavirus. And he’s found an unusual way to express what he’s learned. Mohammad himself is pretty unusual, too. He’s 12 years old.

With school no longer in session because of the virus, Mohammad was assigned to come up with a “passion project” by his seventh-grade teacher. His passion has always been the study of genetics. So he decided to take what he’d been learning about the coronavirus genome and put it to music.

“The coronavirus genome is made of four letters, also called nucleotides,” he said. “The nucleotides are A, G, U and C. And to make music out of them… I turned each letter into a specific note.”

The proteins that make up the coronavirus are especially dangerous inside the human body, Mohammad said. 

“There’s one protein called the envelope protein,” he said. “It’s specifically designed to cause inflammation in the human body. There’s other proteins which trick the body into thinking the virus isn’t a threat. It’s so very interesting to recall how all these systems work together in the virus.” 

Mohammad knows the music he’s made won’t hit the top of the charts. 

“It’s not exactly enjoyable,” he said. “It’s just interesting to me that it creates rhythms. It’s almost like a random mix of letters… Once you turn them into music, they actually sound slightly pleasing. I wouldn’t expect to hear them at a party.”


Web story by Shelly Brisbin.

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