Fountain pens and Science Art

Last year I resumed corresponding with my grandparents by hand-written letters, something I had done in college but stopped as electronic communications became my predominant means of communication. My cursive had atrophied long ago, so I printed the first couple of letters I sent before I resolved to relearn cursive. Never being satisfied with the script I had learned in elementary school (New American Cursive), I began exploring for a handwriting style that appealed to my taste and discovered Spencerian script. I ordered a book and began practicing.

At the same time, I ordered my first fountain pen, the Pilot Metropolitan (the classic Spencerian script seemed appropriately paired with a fountain pen). I have since enjoyed expanding my fountain pen collection and exploring new inks. Pictured below is my fountain pen collection as of March 2017 (left to right: Pilot Metropolitan, TWSBI Diamond 580 AL, Lamy Safari, Noodler’s Ahab Cherokee Pearl, and Noodler’s Ahab Iroquois).

ab fountain pens.jpg

Through my exploration of the online fountain pen community, I found many artists using fountain pens to create compelling illustrations, so I was soon interested in exploring the artistic applications of this new-found hobby. Below are some of my first attempts at coupling fountain pens with a water brush to achieve some watercolor effects. Pleased with the initial results, I hope to continue to apply this technique to visualizing science.

ab watercolor 1.JPGab nemotodes.JPG

The nematode C. elegans: hermaphrodite (bottom) and male (top)ab cancer initiation.JPG

A sketch of cancer initiation in a layer of epithelial cells.


Sunday Night Sketches

Other responsibilities have kept me from updating my blog. Until I post something more substantial, I took a break from work this evening to draw.

An apathetic osteoblast, bored with his task of feeding the mono nucleated osteoclast precursors RANK ligand.

My attempt at the macrophage is for Heather over at Escaping Anergy and inspired by a couple of the images found here. Plus, the osteoclast and macrophage, both derived from the monocyte lineage, are sort of cellular cousins. Furthermore, considering that osteoclasts essentially spit up acid like Jeff Goldblum in “The Fly” to degrade bone matrix, and macrophages rival the gluttony of No-Face in “Spirited Away,” these cells might be a couple of the most bad-ass cells in our bodies.

The Periodic Table of Haiku

In my preparing future faculty course this morning, @IleneDawn introduced another interesting example of merging art and science pedagogy – The Periodic Table of Haiku.

A description of the project from the link above:

“The primary objective of the Haiku project was to integrate chemistry and creative writing. By working with the characteristics of Haiku structure, the goal of this project was not only to deliver informative factual details of an element, but also to discover an original and fresh perspective of the same element. Students were challenged to portray a sense of focus, story, progress, and completeness within the 5-7-5 syllable structure. The project created sufficient excitement at UMR that Chancellor Lehmkuhle and some members of the faculty and staff (and in one case, the spouse of a faculty member) also decided to participate in the project. What you see here is the first iteration of the ‘Periodic Table of Haiku’ project at UMR.”

Click on the link above and enjoy what these students have created by clicking on the different elements.  What a fantastic and creative approach to getting students to think about the elements!

Osteoclasts have feelings too.

This week has been quite busy for me, and I haven’t gotten to address a number of things on the blog that I would like to (including the #womanspace outrage that is rightfully flooding the twitter-sphere/blogosphere). However, I thought I would take the time to post something quick and fun. My research focuses on signals involved in regulating osteoclast (the bone cells responsible for breaking down old and damaged bone) differentiation. Heather, blogging at Escaping Anergy, explains these cells and how they relate to immunology in more detail here. (She’s a finalist for the 2011 Blogging Scholarship, so go vote now!) As a hobby, I draw a little bit, so I recently made a couple of attempts at bringing some life to these awesome multinucleated cells.

Hope you enjoy!

This is my first sketch.
I followed this up with a color version of the same idea.

Traditionally, the bone remodeling process was thought to be largely dictated by osteoblasts (the cells that create new bone matrix), which secrete RANK Ligand to induce osteoclast differentiation; however, we now understand that osteoclasts aren’t as passive as was previously thought, and communicate with osteoblasts through Eph-Ephrin signaling. Furthermore, recent evidence (read more here and here,) is turning this model on its head, now suggesting that osteocytes (cells embedded in mature bone matrix, responsible for sensing microfractures and initiating bone repair) may be the primary source of RANKL that directs osteoclast differentiation. This drawing, however, harkens back to earlier days.  What a mean osteoblast…

Looming osteoblast

And finally, the perils of fusion. This next image imagines the horror these unsuspecting mononucleated osteoclasts must feel when they start fusing with their neighbor.  How would you like it?

The perils of fusion

My hope is to develop more in this series as I explore the “characters” of my favorite cells. If you have any type of cell you’d like to see in action, let me know. I’ll see what I can come up with and post it here.

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