The Testimonies- Educators and Scientific Art

I could talk all day about what I think that scientific artwork is important. As a student and artist, there’s a lot I can talk about. But, since the true value of a piece is realized when it meets its educational potential, the people who implement these artworks have much to offer in regards to their value. These people are teachers and professors.

I interviewed three of my biology professors about how they feel about scientific artwork. Watch the video or read the extended transcript responses below! (watching on is recommended for easiest reading).

Full Interview Transcripts: Dr. Cangialosi, Dr. Pellettieri, and Dr. Hays

What courses do you teach?

Animal Behavior, Tropical Marine Biology, Ecology, Invertebrate Zoology, Molecules and Cells

Cell Biology, INBIO (Stem Cells & Regeneration), Developmental Biology

I teach intro-level Ecology and Evolution, Marine Ecology, Botany, and Conservation Biology.

As an educator, how important do you find scientific artwork to be in the process of teaching science? 

Scientific images/artwork are indispensable. Biology is a very visual field, both in the literal and in the abstract. One cannot study biology without using a variety of visual images.

Very useful, particularly for courses like cell bio where you need to illustrate sub cellular structures not easily visualized by microscopy, etc. (cartoons help convey concepts).

I find it tremendously important!  Having the right ‘visuals’ can make all the difference between blank stares from students and comprehension.  The right artwork can clarify difficult concepts and make them real.

How often do you use these resources in your lesson plans? What type of resources do you use?

In every class lecture, online lecture, reading, lab exercise- there are photographs, cartoon images, diagrams, drawings, figures, graphs and videos that I use. I also use plastic 3-D models in some classes. Students in my Invertebrate zoology and Marine Biology courses draw their own sketches of live and preserved specimens, and take photographs with their cell phone cameras and use these images in their notes where they can be modified and labeled. My students produce their own graphs on a regular basis. I use video clips of behavior extensively in my behavior, marine bio, Invert zoo and ecology courses. Students in my courses also search for and use images and videos that they have found or discovered themselves on the internet. I also teach my students how to properly attribute photos or other images produced by others.

Varies, but I typically borrow from online resources (e.g., Google image search).

Daily.  I use everything I can find (videos, diagrams, photos, cartoons), and often resort to my own (terrible) chicken-scratch drawings in a pinch – even that can be hugely helpful to a student who’s struggling to understand something.

What benefits do you believe these resources provide for students?

Diagrams and animations are essential to help students (and others) to visualize processes at the smallest unseen molecular, chemical, cellular levels of biology. But images at any level of the biological hierarchy are necessary for deeper understanding- for making connections apparent, for understanding relationships between connected organs, connected biochemical pathways, connected populations, and so on. A study of the diversity of life requires images of whole organisms to study organisms that we may never see in real life. Videos of behavior are essential tools in the classroom and research lab for learning about animal behavior. Also, biologists, as other scientists, need to collect, analyze and present data in ways that help readers understand the results of scientific experiments or observational studies. Well constructed graphs and other figures are absolutely paramount for this.

See above.

It helps make abstract ideas concrete.

As a former student, how do you personally feel about the usefulness of scientific illustrations/diagrams? Did they benefit your learning or did other tools suit you better? Please describe!

Again, illustrations, diagrams, images, figures are irreplaceable learning tools for the science student and the scientist. These tools are not separate from the other tools that scientists use but are well integrated into our work in many, complex ways. For example, images of gels from electrophoresis, images from microscope slides, video recordings of animals from a wildlife cam, etc. are simultaneously ways that we collect data and ways that we visualize biological phenomena.

I tend to be a visual learner, so yes, I’ve always found pictures, diagrams, etc. helpful in learning new material.

I am a highly visual person – I still ‘draw’ out the experimental design for most of my experiments, as I’m figuring out the right analyses, etc. statistics, etc., to use.



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