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A biomedical academician’s tryst with startup life


By Bani K. Suri

Like many PhD students, I realized that academic research wasn’t for me while trudging through days of failed experiments. Pursuing a PhD in a failure-prone field was challenging and drained the self-confidence, youth, and energy of my mid–20-year-old self. At the lows of research life, which for an experimental biologist are way too many, my resolve to leave academic research was strengthened. But since quitting wasn’t in my DNA, I decided to persevere, complete my PhD, and then leave.

Surprisingly however, the thrill of finishing my thesis and successfully defending it made me itch for a more fulfilling research experience—in a new lab, under a new mentor/supervisor, in a different university. My talk at a conference got me conversing with an interesting clinician-scientist and made me wonder, ‘Why not give research another chance, but from a more clinical perspective’? And so I started my postdoc (which I had sworn to never do!), which was initially planned for 2 years but grew to 4—practically like doing another PhD in a different environment but with more scientific maturity. Interestingly, while my postdoc experience exposed me to different perspectives, thought processes and techniques, it once again drove the point home that research was indeed not something I found fulfilling. My personality was at odds with the demands of the profession and I did not feel a sense of connection to what I was doing. I realized that I wanted to work on something that impacted society in my lifetime, and the time-consuming nature of academic research was not the career path for me.

In preparation to find other opportunities I decided to add on non-academic skills to my kitty and increase my risk appetite. After making the decision to leave academic research, I applied incessantly to science-related jobs in industries and startups. Following a friend’s recommendation, I stumbled onto an opportunity to be part of a talent incubator. There, I learnt a great deal about startups, related jargon, thought processes, customer relations, problem statement validations, doing market analysis and other, as I would call them, ‘real-world’ skills. However, with my background in basic biomedical sciences, it was difficult to come up with ideas that could be translated into an actual product in a span of just 3 to 6 months. Hence, I chose a cofounder whose technical skills were something upon which I could add on rather than provide the core technical foundation myself. Also, I wanted to be the ‘talker’ and ‘thinker’ (read CEO) rather than the ‘doer’ (read CTO/ CSO).

The idea that my co-founder and I arrived at was not new science, but explored a novel application by tweaking an established technology. It was quite a hit based on weekly reviews and feedback we had from peers as well as mentors. In time we realised that short term incubators such as the one we were part of were better geared to support digital health or software related startups than those like ours that focussed on biomedical research-based technologies. The former typically requires very low startup costs and short time frames to launch marketable products, while the latter has high cost and time requirements for product development. We later realised that our product idea did not align with the incubator’s investment strategy and portfolio as well. The experience was an experiment in itself for both the incubator and us, to test whether a startup like ours could function within their monetary and time framework. While my cofounder and I didn’t receive funds to convert our idea into reality, we surely acquired a wealth of knowledge, such as the process of ideating, evaluating, meeting diverse bunch of smart people and networking with this varied bunch! While we failed to access pre-seed funds, we encountered one of the most common themes in the startup world—the inability to raise funds. Thankfully, coming from academic research, moving on from failures is second nature!

My advice for biologists venturing into entrepreneurship is to carefully consider the type of incubator you wish to join and thoroughly assess their capability to support your specific ideas and startup style. In my opinion, an incubator is a great place to meet people, find a co-founder and get initiated into your startup journey. The experience has surely whetted my entrepreneurial appetite and my next goal is to either work for a startup or develop one from scratch. I personally loved that every day was different, starting from researching, thinking, discussing ideas to talking to customers or even attending workshops to get your prototype built. However, the transition from an academic to a startup culture isn’t easy and I had to cultivate several interpersonal and soft skills to ease into this. Continuous human interaction, which is often lacking in a lab setup, is a major part of startup life that can sometimes overwhelm people from academia. Also, working in a 2- to 3-year-old startup would give a person better insight into what to expect and how to grow, especially for folks from academia. Fast-forward to today, I am currently looking for jobs in startups to experience and learn more about what the journey entails and to grow with it. I think I have bid adieu to the lab bench; but if it is a stepping stone to better things, I wouldn’t mind. An important thing I have learnt from my relatively short life experience is to always seek growth and not get too comfortable!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author’s and not that of ImagenScience.

You can reach out to Bani here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bani-k-suri/

Courage to create: Gloria Fuentes on making the leap to medical illustration


By Brian Shott

After more than twenty years as a researcher, says Gloria Fuentes, her brain was wired for science. But when her life’s circumstances changed, she found a new profession where her knowledge of how the human body works and her passion to create could combine.

When did you start illustrating?

After becoming a mother, I was thinking, “Do I really want to go back to research?” And with two scientists at home—my husband is a researcher—I thought, it’s not possible. We had been moving from job to job and country to country quite often. 

At first I thought I might edit scientific text, but it didn’t really click. And so I went to a course about illustrating science, and I thought, ‘This is great!’ Because I can keep reading science, getting inside the topics I like, and then translate this knowledge into illustration and animation.

I hadn’t thought of myself as an artist, but I don’t think in the world of scientific illustration every visual has to be a piece of art. You need to know and communicate the science in order to put all these things into a visual that makes sense for the project. I find it trickier than writing sometimes.

Which course on medical illustration did you do?

It was a workshop called “A Day of Art in Science,” organized by Sci-Illustrate. It didn’t cover much material, but it was a turning point: I realized I could do this work. I think these courses are good for revealing new career paths: you don’t have to leave science if you don’t want to do research anymore.

You’re able to keep up with the latest research?

Yes, I really enjoy it. I never give up. Even when I was on maternity leave, instead of watching Netflix I was reading scientific papers. Today, I’ve been burying myself in papers related to Covid-19 just like any other researcher. If you are drawing viruses and the cells they invade, you need to check the research papers to extract the information.

Which programs do you use to make your illustrations?

Most of the time it’s Photoshop and Illustrator. But I’m learning 3-D modeling and animation, too. I use a program from Autodesk called Maya, which is expensive, but you can have it for free if you use it for educational purposes. 

Scientifically, one of the best people doing these educational animated videos is Janet Iwasa, an assistant professor of biochemistry at the University of Utah who also studied animation software in Hollywood. She’s using these techniques that you use, for example, for moving the fingers of an animated character, and she applies them to proteins and cells.

Do firms hire illustrators full-time, or do they mostly hire freelancers?

Mostly freelancers. When it comes to scientific illustration, Singapore lags behind the United States and Europe. There, when you submit a paper or a grant, all these visuals are made professionally by illustrators. Here, it’s considered to be unnecessary, or a job that a postdoc who’s a little more artistic can do. So it’s difficult here to convince people to give you a job, much less hire you full time.

How did you get the cover for Cell magazine? 

A friend of a friend told me they were looking for someone to create cover art for a scientific paper. They asked what other covers I had made, and I said, I’m just starting out, I don’t have any covers. They said they would go with an established company. I said, well, I have this idea of mixing the three main ethnic groups in Singapore to create a piece that represents the local diversity. I made one sketch and sent it in anyway and said, listen, this really resonates with the research paper you’re profiling, and it could be artistically engaging. And it’s completely different from your typical covers, which are more technical.

There were other people working on the cover, but at the last moment, the paper was out much faster than they thought, and the only person who could deliver the artwork in time was me.

I worked long hours for a whole weekend. My hands were getting numb. In the end it was worth it. Everyone was very happy with it. 

How easy is it to get work in medical illustration?

My husband works very long hours, so I’m the one holding the house, taking care of our child, plus working. So I’m using my ex-colleagues and people that I know. I don’t advertise that much; I go to LinkedIn and Twitter, and I try to post things there. It looks like it’s working. Whenever I have an illustration, my webpage has a big peak in views. 

Did the Cell cover give you more exposure and work opportunities?

Apparently it was a really big hit in GIS [Genome Institute of Singapore]. They’re considering  organizing a workshop for postdocs and others who might be interested in illustration. But honestly, I keep doing the same things—I’m working with and getting new work through the people I know. 

Today, someone comes with a logo, I make a logo. I’ve been developing web pages, which is not what I thought I would do. But I do think some people are thinking, when they have something big, to call me. So I think the seed is there, but it’s not fully grown. 

Do you think that moving to the U.S. will help your business?

The two countries are completely different. Here in Singapore, I feel they don’t yet have a strong belief in the value of illustrations—but there is limited competition. In the States, it’s the opposite. Everyone is using illustrators, but there are many people doing it. I will need to think about business in a different way. I am trying to position myself like, ‘Ok, you have these people who excel artistically, but I can be the middle woman, between the scientists and the more sophisticated graphic designers.’ You can’t go again and again to the scientists to have them explain to you what to draw. I can do that myself, the first sketch, and then if they want to elevate my graphics, that’s great. 

But I think Covid-19 is going to change everything.

How so?

There will be less funds, so people need to prioritize and may drop illustration. But it’s also clear that with Covid we need a lot of information, a lot of scientific content. Like my parents—they want to know about the coronavirus, but they’re not going to read a bunch of scientific papers. My mother, she’s the first one who wants to know what I’m doing: ‘Why,’ she asks, ‘Why is this protein important, why not the other? Why, why, why?’ So I think there is a thirst for scientific content, but it needs to be delivered in an easier and prettier way. 

You’re one of the few illustrators with scientific experience.

There are very few of them with a long history in research. We’re the minority. It’s true that in some master’s programs for medical illustration they do have a lot of scientific content—anatomy classes, biochemistry—but it’s typically just two years. 

When you were doing science and enjoying it, did you feel like a creative side of you was not being expressed?

In Spain, when I decided to go into science there was no option to study science along with something more artistic. It was one way or the other. I took the scientific path and was very happy. But I was always the one playing with the proteins and making the pretty figures. I used to draw and do pottery, and then I went for the PhD and you forget about these things. 

Now, it’s coming back. With this 3-D modeling, it’s not pottery, but it’s OK, and it’s cleaner. So it feels like I’m closing a cycle. 

Are you optimistic about the future of medical illustration? 

Yes, particularly about animation. Five years ago, you would not think that someone in a house would be able to do it. Now, you invest in a GPS card and you can make it. So I think it’s all coming together to say, ‘This field is here, it’s going to stay, and it’s going to increase.’ 

You can reach out to Gloria Fuentes via LinkedIn.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and not that of ImagenScience.

Tools of his trade: Daniel Metcalf’s journey into microscopy


By Brian Shott

After years in neurobiology, Daniel Metcalf realized that he was interested in microscopes as much as cell biology research itself. He moved to sales manager for Scientifica’s EMEA region, overseeing six product specialists.

What drew you to this job, and can you briefly describe the work?

I’ve always liked instrumentation and microscopy. I like the high-value technical sales. It’s about building a relationship and understanding the research, and helping the customer solve their research questions. 

Tell me about your sales team.

Scientifica is me plus six others in sales in EMEA; then there’s a U.S. sales team of about the same size. We have someone dedicated to China. My team is split between the key European countries and Israel primarily, for example UK, France, Germany, Benelux, Spain, Italy, and Scandinavia. For some countries, like Japan, Australia, and India, distributors sell on our behalf.

We have two product ranges. One is electrophysiology: the electrical recordings from neurons and brain samples. The other is multiphoton microscopes for imaging the brain and the nervous system. Almost all of our customers are academic research scientists in neuroscience. 

Can you describe a typical day or week?

I have regular weekly catch-ups, helping the team with their sales; I run team meetings and help with customer calls and visits. Before the coronavirus we traveled quite a bit—my team might spend 30 to 50 percent of its time traveling.

We often do product demos. You have to work out what experiments will be important to your client. If it’s a pre-existing project, what are the problems with their current equipment and how can you do it better? It’s a back and forth, because they might not know what’s possible with the equipment.

Particularly in Europe, you’re often talking to a customer before they’ve secured funding to make the purchase. It could be six months before they get a decision on the funding scheme. And there are tender procedures on high-value equipment. Some of the multiphoton microscopes cost £300,000 or more, and those sales can last six months to a couple of years. We have further discussions after the money comes through—by then, they might have changed their research project, so we change the specifications, give them updated quotes, pricing, exchange rates. And then these tender procurement processes can take three to six months.

You moved from academia to industry quite a few years ago. Why? Was the transition intimidating?

I was on about my fourth temporary contract in academia, getting a bit frustrated. I would just get started with projects and then have to move on to the next job.

The transition to industry happened in two steps. I moved from doing a postdoc at the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research to being a research scientist at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), which is still quite academically focused. 

I made the decision to move away from researching neurodegenerative diseases using microscopes to actually putting the emphasis on microscope development itself. I realized I was much more interested in the use of microscopy and its application than in Cell Biology and neurodegeneration research.

When a recruiter approached me about selling Nikon products and training Nikon customers in superresolution microscopy, it seemed like a natural step—I was already doing that at NPL, just not with a commercial emphasis. I wasn’t worried, though I did know that once I did it, there probably wouldn’t be any going back to academia.

There was a bit of a transition in my first few years, finishing off some projects that I had started at NPL. But I haven’t done any publishing recently. I’ve helped with research projects, but not enough to qualify as an author. But there’s definitely still an interaction with researchers. 

What are the career pathways at Scientifica?

A lot of people stay in sales; there is the management role like mine. That’s mostly the linear career path. But people can move from sales into the applications or technical side of things. Or, another path is sideways into things like product management or marketing. There’s occasionally movement back into academia, into something like microscopy core facility management.

What technological advances are coming in microscopy?

One area is three-photon imaging, as opposed to the typical two-photon. It allows you to go deeper. We’re starting to sell it. 

There’s a new technology that a few companies are using involving spatial light modulators. Instead of just observing, researchers can target and stimulate individual cells, even individual synapses, and control that in three dimensions. One can simultaneously hit thirty cells with light and see how they react.

How is your relationship with researchers?

The key is building a relationship. Some people are very open to having conversations; others are more reserved or suspicious until you’ve built a level of trust. They’re cynical about sales or perhaps aren’t convinced that you know what you’re talking about and think they’re just going to get misled or badly advised. 

So long as you don’t waste their time and you listen to them, rather than just talk about your product endlessly, you get a nice kind of rapport going. It doesn’t always translate into sales, but over six or seven years you get to know a customer really well. You know their research; they know your product.

How much work and time goes into a quote?

If it’s a big multiphoton system, you probably want at least an hour speaking with the scientists to understand what they’re trying to do. Then it takes maybe another hour to put together a complex quote, and then we prefer to talk it through with them—there could be fifty lines of itemized things with technical jargon. For more complex configurations, we have to contact our tech support or R&D team and it could take a day to answer their questions; we may then go back and forth with the researcher a few more times to refine the details and the specifications. 

Because some procurement rules require three quotes, we often get people contacting us just to get a quote to submit to procurement or align with tender requirements—they have no intention of buying our product. For low-value stuff, a camera, say, it’s Ok, it’s only two minutes of our time. We might decline to provide more detailed quotes, but you can sometimes convince someone to consider your product if they’re willing to discuss their requirements.

Your products are often made of materials from other companies.

Yes. We use Nikon and Olympus objective lenses in our microscopes. And we don’t make our own cameras—we use Hamamatsu, Photometrics, or Andor. It’s true for almost all high-end scientific equipment made by small and medium sized companies: the optics are almost always from another company. All of our products are some kind of fusion of Scientifica manufactured products plus some of those other products from other companies to make up a complete system. 

Do all these different companies’ components lead to sales conflicts?

It’s a funny thing in the industry. Andor sells spinning disk microscopes and cameras. At Nikon we used to buy the Andor cameras, but then we’d be competing against them on the spinning disks. At Scientifica, Nikon and Leica might buy our stages or manipulators but then we occasionally compete with them for microscope sales. But by and large it’s treated separately.

What are the most stressful things about your job?

Meeting tender deadlines. Filling out tender documents can be several days of work. You have to stay very organized. You can miss a £300,000 sale by missing a tender deadline by just an hour. Also, as a manager, losing good team members is very stressful because it takes a while to train people.

You can reach out to Daniel Metcalf via LinkedIn.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and not that of ImagenScience.

Wild type mouse muscle fibers


My goal in this project was to compare the morphology of leg muscle fibers in healthy mice vs. MACF1 mutant mice using transmission electron microscopy (TEM).

As members of New York University’s Microscopy Lab, Alice Liang, the director, Chris Petzold, the lab manager, and myself worked in tandem to design, process, section, and image these samples. We followed a standard TEM processing protocol to preserve the tissue before embedding it in resin. Once polymerized, the blocks were sectioned onto TEM grids and stained with uranyl acetate (UA) and lead citrate. This process can take from 2-3 weeks to complete depending on the workload of the core.

Imaging was done on a Philips CM12 TEM with Gatan camera.

We collaborated with Julien Oury and his PI Steve Burden to ensure the TEM images captured representative regions of interest from both healthy and mutant mice.

We focused specifically on longitudinal muscle fibers displaying mitochondria and t-tubules and found a visible difference between the morphology and organization of these particular organelles in the different mouse groups. Once all parties were in agreement about the results, we chose one of the best, most representative TEM images from the healthy mouse to color and submit for the journal cover.

I used Adobe Photoshop to highlight different components of the muscle fibers (red and orange) as well as the mitochondria and t-tubules (purple). I think muscle tissue is one of the most visually pleasing tissues to image with TEM. The patterns are almost hypnotizing.

For me, imaging wasn’t the hard part of this project—instead, it was choosing which image to color out of the dozens of beautiful ones we collected. Finding which color combinations work together is the next hurdle. I tried various combinations before settling on this one, and I’m happy with the results.

Author: Kristel Dancel-Manning, BFA, MS

Microscope: Philips CM12 TEM with Gatan 4k camera

Specimen: mouse muscle fibers

Core Facility: NYU Medical Center’s Microscopy Lab

A new view of the Manhattan plot

manhattan plot skyline

The human genome is almost identical from person to person, but we all have small differences which make us unique.
This can be as small as single changes in the nucleotide bases of DNA, which are known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).

As well as contributing to our physical features, these changes can mean that certain individuals, or populations are more or less susceptible to a disease.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) aim to identify these differences, and usually present this complex data in a scatterplot known as a Manhattan plot.

In this beautiful illustration of the Manhattan skyline :

🧬 Each window represents an SNP

🧬 The position along the x axis represents the genomic location

🧬 Each building represents a chromosome

🧬 The y axis shows the likelihood of a SNP being associated with the trait in question (the higher dot, the higher the probability)

Thank you to 🇺🇸 Gurmannat “Mannat” Kalra, molecular medicine PhD student at University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB). Biology is her passion. Gurmannat creates interpretive paintings to make biological concepts easier to understand and remember.

manhattan plot skyline

Coral’s complex reproduction


Have you seen corals in real life? Which ones? Where?

Corals are made of colonies of polyps and have three ways to increase their numbers:

🔸 Asexual reproduction, where “parental” polyps bud to boost numbers within a colony
🔸 Fragmentation, when a section of coral falls away to establish a new colony
🔸 Sexual reproduction by spawning or by brooding 

Sexual reproduction by brooding (as illustrated) can be important for the coral to increase genetic variation, but another major advantage is that it forms new colonies far away from the parental one. 

The corals coordinate this process by the phases of the moon with sperm released (1) during the new moon and the larvae released (4) at the full moon, after a period of brooding in the polyps (2-4).  

The larvae are then dispersed on the ocean currents until they find a home to begin developing a new colony.

Thank you to 🇨🇴🇦🇺 Lucia Garces, fellow demonstrator and scientific illustrator at St. George’s University. She’s also a graphic designer and nature lover. 
Lucia made this image for Stephen Nimrod, assistant professor in the Department of Biology, Ecology & Conservation.

Making batteries green


The batteries in our keyboards, flashlights, or automobiles seem to provide silent, clean, and efficient power. But to perform their magic, batteries employ inorganic materials such as lithium and other metals—and these elements are unsustainable.

Finding and developing environmentally friendly battery materials is a growing venture. The image illustrates an experiment that combined forest-based nanocellulose, the organic red dye molecule alizarin, and conductive polymers to successfully fashion a battery with an impressive ability to hold an electric charge (>400 F g-1) and good stability (>1000 cycles). The alizarin, originally derived from plant roots and used historically to dye textiles, improves energy storage, while nanocellulose provides a nonporous and mechanically strong network for the polymers.

Thank you to 🇦🇺 Robert Brooke, PhD, co-founder of 🇸🇪Conceptualized.tech, who created the illustration, which was used for the cover of the Advanced Sustainable Systems Journal, vol 8, issue 8, 2019. Robert describes himself as a “scientist by day, 3D modeler/graphic designer by night.”


A deadly dance


The virus spike protein decorates the outer surface of SARS-COV-2 virion and it is the target for the immune system and the antigen for all for vaccines reporting protection in phase 3 trials.  

The illustration shows the conformational changes of the highly dynamic spike protein of the virus:

🟣 “Prefusion conformation”: the spike protein binds to the cellular receptor ACE2 and attaches to the cell membrane.

🟣 “Prehairpin and transient conformation”: cellular proteases cleave the spike protein inducing dramatical conformational changes on its structure.

🟣 “Postfusion state”: fusion with the cellular membrane and release of the viral genome.

Thank you to 🇪🇸 Gloria Fuentes, who left her postdoc to try out scientific illustration and has now founded her own company, 🇸🇬The Visual Thinker. 
You can read more about Gloria here.

A naturalist’s notebook


Scientific illustrators: Do you prefer to use the computer, or old-school paper and brush? Are the two compatible? 
Perhaps, after a day exploring and (carefully!) touching creatures in the tide pools of Canada’s Gulf Islands, using a computer to craft an image of nature’s wonders just didn’t feel right to Bea Martin. Though adept at digital illustration, on this day Bea reached for her colored pencils and watercolors to depict by hand the many species that survive in the challenging intertidal zone.

“I sketched with Col-erase Tuscan Red and Brown on toned, tan paper,” Bea says. “Then I added a mix of watercolor and gouache.” Once at home, Bea consulted the New Beachcomber’s guide to the Pacific Northwest, by J. Duane Sept, to identify purple stars, crabs, chitons and more.

The result is a page from Bea’s naturalist notebook, shown here. 

Thank you to 🇪🇸 Beatriz Martin, a character animator, certified medical illustrator (CMI), nature sketcher, and Fulbright Scholar with a medical background living in the U.S. 🇺🇸
With curiosity and enthusiasm, her goal is to craft entertaining, inspiring and educational stories, merging art with science in both digital and traditional media. 

How a retrovirus helped placental mammals


The intimate relationship between mother and fetus allows placental mammals to birth live offspring. 
Compared to our egg-laying ancestors, this evolutionary step affords the fetus greater protection within the mother, and has led to a dramatic expansion in brain development.

But it might surprise you to know that an ancient retrovirus was, in part, responsible for this breakthrough.  

The syncytiotrophoblast (depicted in the second panel): 

⚆ A acts as a barrier between the placenta and the maternal tissue.

⚆ Contains a protein called syncytin that allows this barrier to form, and which originated from the envelope protein of a retrovirus!

⚆ is essential to maintain a close relationship where nutrients and gases can be exchanged, whilst ensuring feto-maternal tolerance and immune suppression.

⚆is a multinucleate cell layer of fetal origin.

Thank you to 🇪🇸 Antonio García Gómez. Antonio, holds a PhD in Biochemistry and he is a scientific illustrator passionate about translating scientific messages into effective and engaging illustrations. 

Colors that say, “Stay away!”


In the case of the Garden Tiger Moth, beauty really is only skin deep. The colorful pattern is actually a warning sign to predators that the moth is poisonous. 

📍The poison is acquired during the larval stage of the lifecycle. 
As in the famous book “The Hungry Caterpillar,” 🐛 this is the main feeding stage. 

📍Although the larvae have a generalist diet, they acquire poison from eating plants containing toxins known as Pyrrolizidine alkaloids. 

📍The larvae convert these plant-derived toxins into insect-specific toxins such as callimorphine.

As illustrated, the lifecycle of the Garden Tiger Moth: 

🟠  Eggs hatch in late summer, as the previous generation of adults dies.

🟠 The insects survive winter as small larvae; in spring they begin eating and grow into a large caterpillars known as “Woolly Bears” due to the hairs on their back.

🟠 By June the caterpillars explore low vegetation and spin a cocoon there from their hairs and silk. 

🟠 In summer, with the metamorphosis complete, the adult moth emerges.

Thank you to 🇩🇰 Brian Dall Schyth, a high school teacher and freelance Illustrator; owner of ExplainWays. This illustration was made for the Museum of Natural History in Aarhus as part of the 99 species project. 

Photosynthesis: the planet-protecting lifecycle


Recently, many governments have been promising to begin tree planting as a climate mitigation tool.
A major reason behind this proposal is that, during a process known as photosynthesis, plants take up carbon dioxide (CO2) in order to make sugars for their growth. This reduces atmospheric carbon dioxide as the carbon remains stored in the plant. For us, oxygen is a happy byproduct of these reactions, and the carbon dioxide is “captured.” 

Key features of photosynthesis are:

🌲 The thylakoid membrane, in the chloroplast organelle, the location of the photosystems that absorb light 

🌲 Light energy that transfers the electrons extracted from H2O to CO2, to produce carbohydrates

🌲 The carbon fixation cycle, where the ATP, NADPH and carbon dioxide are converted to sugars and starch

The illustration allows us to peer into the thylakoid membrane. 

🇸🇪 Thank you to Dmitry Shevela, a researcher at Umeå University and, a science illustrator at his own graphic design company ShevelaDesign AB. 
The poster was developed in collaboration with Prof. Govindjee Govindjee, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Seeing skin’s full spectrum


The skin is the largest organ of the human body. People portrayed in medical art very often have Euroasian skin tone and features. Darker skin is not as common.

“Brown skin can have vibrant colors, like orange, red, purple, blue, green, and a variety of undertones,” says Hillary Wilson. But without this knowledge, illustrators risk creating darker-skinned individuals who are dull, flat, and lifeless.

In skin tone ball studies, which she calls “roadmaps for how the skin would look on a theoretical face,” Hillary experiments with colors, light and shadow, and practices making scars, wounds, and freckles on darker-skinned individuals.

Melanin, a pigment that contributes to the colour of our skin, is produced and packaged by membrane-bound structures called melanosomes that are:

🔴 made by the melanocytes cells & transferred and positioned above the nucleus of keratinocytes cells to protect their #DNA against UV damage

🔴 5 times more dense and larger in highly pigmented skin

🔴 isolated and dispersed through all the layers in darker skin, compared with only being in the basal layer in lighter skin tones

Thank you to 🇺🇸Hillary Wilson, in her work she focuses on visual storytelling, and celebrating the rich variation in everyday people