Keats is using yeast because it's a common model organism in biology, used to study metabolic pathways.
So in Michael Phelps' case, the yeast cells will get a big helping of phosphates, vitamin B12 and thiamine, all of which reflect the Olympic swimmer's regimen of five-egg omelets, chocolate chip pancakes and coffee. "Effectively, what happens is the cells will become more Phelps-ian," Keats said.
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Diet isn't the only factor. Obama was once a smoker and he chewed Nicorette gum. So aside from the White House chef's menu, Keats will be giving the yeast cells nicotine. Lady Gaga's famous "drunk diet" and her habit of eating vegetables and fish will also get a spin.
Keats added that he's looking at other famous figures as well. George Washington, for instance, was known to drink a lot of Madeira wine. For Jesus Christ, he is investigating what people of his class and ethnic group ate.
The project also reflects a progression towards realism in the visual arts. "There's this drive to verisimilitude," he said. "Once there were black and white photos, then color, then movies."