Always Strange

Illustrator, Sculptor, Mixed Media Artist

Illustration for a Science Journal

Anna SokolovComment

For any of you who might not know, I have a science background/education and currently work in the field of public health, specifically in research administration. My early years involved quite a bit of laboratory work where I spent my days in a lab coat and gloves, standing at a bench, pipetting small liquids from one vial into another (there were also Bunsen burners involved, as well as cool chemical reactions). At my first real job out of college I joined a laboratory in New York City. My boss, a Principal Investigator (PI) was just starting his own laboratory and he only hired me (and no one else) to help him set up this brand new lab. Due to such low number of helping hands I inadvertently became a Jane-of-all-trades for a while.

#TBT to me preparing some cultures on Petri dishes

During that time I learned many things from my boss. One of these important tidbits was that being a successful scientist takes a combination of broad and transferable skills - perseverance, positive reaction to lots of caffeine, lack of aversion to harsh criticism and very importantly - an ability to express yourself through writing. Recording detailed results of your daily successes and failures not only helps you maintain a (required) lab notebook but also serves as a repository of information for that publication you'll soon have to produce and submit to journals for consideration. Since the success of receiving continuous funding for your research often largely depends on your publication record the pressure to publish your results is very high.

Thankfully, and because I was a lab assistant and not a PhD student, my boss was in charge of the direction of his lab's research. My role was largely supportive, on all fronts. We would discuss his scientific plans, I would then carry out many of the actual laboratory experiments, maintain inventory and place orders for all the needed supplies and reagents, and then help him proofread publications he had in preparation, reporting the work we've done. One day, while on our 14th iteration of the same manuscript, he asked me to help him with all the graphics and illustrations. Although it wouldn't extend beyond simple shapes and graphs this time around the prospect of helping with this little project was new and exciting. We even went as far as designing a journal cover illustration and submitting it for consideration to the journal along with our manuscript. Sadly, the journal (JBC) didn't accept the cover illustration, but that did not diminish my excitement about not having to transfer small liquids all day but instead being able to enjoy Adobe Illustrator for a portion of my day.

Journal cover we submitted along with our manuscript

All this to say that I really look forward to all opportunities that allow me to blend art and science in some creative and exciting way. Since I moved from that lab job (and to another, and another) I've had a couple of such captivating projects. You know how some people love their jobs so much they can't stop thinking about work-related problems and are inspired to come up with solutions, in a stimulating and satisfying way? That's how "work" felt for the first time. And let me tell you - that's truly the stuff I want to be spending my time on. 

For anyone interested about cholesterol regulation here is the LINK to the scientific article we published with JBC and a recent article using a version of this illustration HERE