The year that has gone by in learning and sharing

My lifelong aim is to grow and learn, surround myself with people who are better than me (as human beings and as learners). This year was lots of learnings and lots of giving back. A friend recently reiterated that it is in teaching what we learn we grow as professionals as well as human beings. I share some of the highlights of the past year.

Conference at EMBL. Representing lab took me to Microtubule meeting at EMBL, Heidelberg this summer. I got to present in progress on the science communication project I am currently working on with my PI in the lab to a scientific audience. I learned to blend as a scientific illustrator in an academic crowd. I also learned so much about microtubules from all the talks (that I almost felt like an expert at the end of it).

Drawing and Science illustration, da Vinci style. After the meeting, I got the chance to work with a collaborator’s team at Institute Curie. I used my new education in microtubules to draw some molecules associated with the cytoskeleton. Under the tutelage of Mr. Renaud Chabrier, I spent time understanding how forms emerge from light and shade using charcoal and ink. While this idea seems obvious, attempting it was not easy for me as it may be for some. Hoping I will employ these lessons more carefully in my future works.

Tree study (from Durer)

Appreciation for Modern art. In addition to the traditional, da Vinci style of drawing, I got exposed to Modern art. Paris has a lot of art museums (well, of course), the one that has stayed with me the most is Centre de Pompidou. I never appreciated modern art before, but a day in that museum opened my mind to it. This has allowed me to appreciate more work by peers and previous.

I find myself employing abstraction of form, color or thought in a lot of my new work. I got more exposure to the language of artists in a workshop by my friends at Multiverse.

Animate and inanimate 

Blog on science illustration for pedagogy. The exposure I got in summer, through discussions and reading, enlightened me about the differences and similarities in scientific visualization, science illustration, and science art. I the exposure was too powerful that it compelled me to contemplate more, some of it is shared in the blog I wrote for Confluence.

Illustrations for Science communication. I was able to share my learning with enthusiastic students (and faculty) at Hindu and Gargi College, University of Delhi and IDAC college, Bangalore. It got to talk about science communication and the role of illustrations in learning and in outreach. Taking these workshops honed my ideas and improved my work process.

Ipsa presenting talkat IDAC college, Bangalore. PC: Staff photgrpaher at IDAC.
Student and faculty of Zoology department at Hindu College with Ipsa, and the artwork created during workshop. PC: Zoology Student at Hindu College

Exhibit at National Postdoctoral Symposium. Exhibiting and selling the work among scientific peers is always fun. There is a sense of joy when scientists can see the work as an art piece. It is an experience to see it dawn on their face, the idea that science and scientific imagery, the ones they make daily in the laboratory can be art. It is an experience I want to have again. Thanking my friends and mentors who encouraged me to ‘go to there’.  

Labmeet musings. I am privileged to have open-minded labmates and PI that are ready to discuss non-lab-research oriented subjects with similar enthusiasm as they would discuss research. During labmeets, I talked to them about how I think about what to keep in mind while creating an illustration, different kinds of illustrations and their relevance, preparation required for making these illustrations, how to use adobe illustrator, the thin and thick boundaries between science and art. Discussions with them have helped my own comprehension on these matters. I am looking forward to taking these discussions outside my lab in the next year. (Hint: invite me!)

ScienceHigh. The first half of the year, I was able to organize science outreach talks. My nerd friends spoke of evolution, stars, colors and other fun things to a non-academic audience in Bangalore. I have not been able to conduct them in the latter half to the year. Hoping to resume in the new year.

Books through the year. If I haven’t declared it already, let me scream, I love children’s picture books. This year I collected and read a whole lot of them. They give such a sense of joy, wonder, and hope. And I wonder why they are not ‘adult’ books, as we often need these reminders in the daily grind of life. I am listing out a few that I particularly loved (take my suggestions!)

Coppernickel goes Mondarian by Wouter van reek; Du iz tak? by Carson Ellis; Tiny, perfect things by Clark and Kloepper; Big wolf and little wolf by Brun-Cosme and Tallec; Daytime Visions an alphabet by Isol.

This year I also read some non-fiction for growth in work: Why art needs science by Roche, Farina and Commins.

I hope to grow as a science story teller, artist, and as human being tomorrow (and in the newyear).

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