This last year I had less and less time to draw as my research project advanced. It’s sad, but I always knew that it would be difficult to combine science and illustration in everyday life. Hopefully the things I’m learning will help me, and many others, to make more and better science comics in the future!
A very welcome exception has been this series of ‘collectable cards’ celebrating women scientists, which I have been developing with Massive Science in the past 2-3 of months. I have made approximately 1 per week and there are now 9 of them, neatly arranged on their Instagram. You can find out more about each one of these pioneering scientists and discover new ones in Our Heroes series on their website: https://massivesci.com/themes/our-heroes/
After more than a year spent working on it I can finally announce that Cervellopoli, my first children’s book, is now published!
Editoriale Scienza approached me back in 2015, asking me if I was interested in writing an introduction to neuroscience for younger readers. I had no experience in writing children’s books but thanks to their expert guidance (and a lot of help at the colors from my friend Marie De Beaucourt) I can say that I am very happy with the result.
But the final judgement is now up to my new readers, so if you know a little Italian speaker please consider buying the book for them (I hope to have soon an English edition as well). Thanks!
It has been almost 2 months since I returned from my Djerassi residency and my life in NYC couldn’t have been more different from the peaceful month spent on the Santa Cruz mountains. In the sweltering city I have been rushing to finish my next book, starting my new postdoc and meeting new people.
So here a little souvenir from Djerassi: an intricate visual metaphor in which the beautiful California fog (born by the convergence of evaporation and cold winds) becomes a symbol of what happens at the Scientific Delirium Madness – art and science coming together to create the breeding ground for new ideas.
I left the original page at the residency and I’m happy to announce that a limited edition of 10 signed prints will be sold at their fundraising event on October 16. So if you like this and you want to support a great institution get in touch with them!
PS: scattered around the illustration you can also find little nods to my fellow residents. They probably won’t make any sense to anyone who wasn’t there with us but it was my way to honour this time spent together.
UCL asked me once again to draw some illustration for their Sustainability Annual Report. This year they decided to go digital and present their results with an interactive illustration. Check out the final result with all the animated elements (designed by Rory Pickering) or download the PDF version.
I think this hybrid between comics, animations and hypertext has great potential as educational material and I would love to do more along these lines.
Another medical-themed illustration, this time for CognitionKit, a new joint venture between Cambridge Cognition and Ctrl Group.
The weird symbols on the left were inspired by the cues used in standard memory tests, but I like that they look like some kind of alien pictographic language.
I have a little announcement to make, so please allow me an unusually long post.
When I decided to become a freelance cartoonist in 2013, after finishing my PhD, I never seriously considered returning to academia. I simply didn’t think there would be an institution that would accommodate – even less support – my strange mix of interests. And probably there wasn’t, until Columbia University created the Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience (PSSN for short) with the ambitious goal of creating:
a new paradigm for interdisciplinary university-sponsored research to advance understanding of mind, brain, and behavior, and the social foundations and consequences of new neuroscientific findings.
I only discovered the program in September 2015, when I first travelled to New York, and I just couldn’t believe my luck. The PSSN postdoc seemed like the position of my dreams and the next round of submission was only a few months away. I immediately started working on a proposal titled ‘Visual Narratives for Science Communication‘ and thinking of ways to bridge the gap between the apparently distant worlds of science and comics.
The good news is that my proposal was accepted! This means that I will have the chance to fully develop this interdisciplinary project and explore how we can use visual narratives to communicate science. I think the proliferation of science-inspired cartoons, animations and webcomics already proves their great potential, but as a scientist I want to go deeper and try to understand the cognitive mechanisms behind visual narrative communication.
Because I think scientists need new communication tools and I believe comics can help us. My hope is that soon they will not be considered just some ‘funny’ way to talk about science but an essential tool for science education. I hope one day to see a professional community of science cartoonists just like the community of science journalists we have today.
Finally – and this is one of the main reasons for me to write this post – I want to make clear that I can’t do this alone. We need interdisciplinary answers for interdisciplinary problems. Luckily, over the past years, I have already met many brilliant people, from many different fields, willing to support me. But I’m sure there are more out there who can contribute to this new emerging field. So, if you are interested in this project, whether you are a scientist, a journalist, a cartoonist, a designer, or any combination of these and much more… please DO get in touch. I’d love to hear from you, what you think and how we can collaborate.
I have big plans and more news will follow soon but in the meanwhile thank you all for supporting my work. I hope you will join me on this new adventure.
I made this crowd illustration for Ctrl Group, a research and design company working in the field of digital healthcare and health-related technologies. It was really fun to draw because this is such an exciting (and complex) new world. Health apps, personalized genomics, caretaker robots, brain stimulators… Who knows what the future holds? One thing is sure: these guys are going to design the hell out of it! Keep an eye on them.
Hey, did you know that you can now preorder the new issue of LÖK ZINE which is all about cryptozoology? Personally, I contributed with a double illustration about the shadow biosphere (also called ‘weird life’) a controversial theory which argues that since we always look for ‘familiar’ life (composed of the usual stuff: proteins, RNA, DNA) we may have completely missed some non carbon-based microorganisms which could have evolved here on Earth! However unlikely I think it’s a fascinating idea, especially as we start looking for extraterrestrial life which may not look at all as we may expect…
NOTE: the first half of the illustration was inspired by the petroglyphs carved in the so-called ‘desert varnish‘ which has been suggested as a trace of weird life. The second half of course was completely made up (although some sculptures that I have seen at the latest MoMA Picasso exhibition definitely provided some inspiration). Also, I strongly recommend this Mosaic article if you are interested in the ultimate question of “what is life?” (something that has always fascinated me as a biologist).
Hi all, I hope your 2016 is going well. Mine started under the sun of Mexico, where I’m spending a whole month relaxing, reading and working on my next book about the science of sensory perception. Amongst the things I am reading there is a collection of short stories by Italo Calvino Sotto Il Sole Giaguaro. A friend first recommended it to me because the titular story is settled in Mexico but I then discovered that also the Calvino stories were meant to be part of a book on the 5 senses (unfortunately he died before writing the stories on touch and vision). Galvanised by this coincidence I decided to start the year with a little illustration based on the story about taste. It is about a troubled couple which, while travelling in Mexico, develops a strange obsession about food and its role in ancient Aztec rituals…
Here is a little excerpt from the original story (sorry English-speaking folks, you can look up the translation if you want: Under the Jaguar Sun):
“Non Mangi?” mi chiese Olivia che sembrava concentrata solo nel gustare il suo piatto ed era invece come al solito atttentissima, mentre io ero rimasto assorto guardandola. Era la sensazione dei suoi denti nella mia carne che stavo immaginando, e sentivo la sua lingua sollevarmi contro la volta del palato, avvolgermi di saliva, poi spingermi sotto la punta dei canini. Ero seduto li davanti a lei ma allo stesso tempo mi pareva che una parte di me, o tutto me stesso, fossi contenuto nella sua bocca, stritolato, dilaniato fibra a fibra. Situazione non completamente passiva in quanto mentre venivo masticato da lei sentivo anche che agivo su di lei, le trasmettevo sensazioni che si propagavano dalle papille della bocca per tutto il corpo, che ogni sua vibrazione ero io a provocarla: era un rapporto reciproco e completo che ci coinvolgeva e travolgeva.