Girls Do Science

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Illustration I made for the Girls Do Science event in Birmingham, part of the Pint Of Science UK series. Check it out if you are in the area, and always support women in STEM, wherever you are!

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Massive Science GMOs report

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Last week I made some special illustrations for the first Massive Science report, on Genetically Modified Organisms (in particular on their effects on agriculture and human health). I know this is a very sensitive subject but as a science communicator I think it is something we urgently need to discuss. Especially as the USDA is finally providing guidelines on how to label genetically ‘engineered’ foods, while the public debate around GMOs has become so polarised (and so detached from empirical evidence) that it is almost impossible to have an open-minded conversation about this.

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I’m not an expert myself but as a scientist I have always been skeptic of black and white positions (the truth most often comes in shades of grey) and the proliferation of the ‘non-GMO’ label literally drives me crazy every time I walk into a Whole Foods! This is why I really appreciate the effort by the Massive team to publish clear and reliable information, from scientists who actually understand genetic engineering. I didn’t write any part of the report but I’ll be happy if my illustrations can bring a few more readers to it. Subscribe now to get full access: https://massivesci.com/reports/gmos/ 

Brain Awareness Week 2018

Here is an illustration to celebrate Brain Awareness Week 2018.

Brain Awareness Week is a “global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research”. If you live anywhere near a university chances are that there are going to be some brain-related events this week, I encourage you to look them up and engage with your local neuroscientists.

And if you want to learn more about the beautiful neural networks that hide inside you, my books are always a good place to start. Neurocomic is now available in more than 5 languages and The Senses came out with Nobrow just a few months ago. Also, for Italian-speaking children (and soon also Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese) you can order Cervellopoli from Editorial Scienza.

Have a great week!

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Have a brainy new year

Cervellopoli2018smallDespite everything 2017 was a pretty good year for me, probably one of the best I had. I published two books (Cervellopoli + The Senses) and spent most of my time reading and writing about the science of storytelling, metaphors and visualization. A lot of new ideas are brewing in my brain and I can’t wait to start working on them in 2018. I wish your neurons are fired up too!

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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/

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Cervellopoli

After more than a year spent working on it I can finally announce that Cervellopoli, my first children’s book, is now published!

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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.

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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!

The Djerassi Fog

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!

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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.

Green UCL

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.
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Visual Narratives For Science Communication

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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.

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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.