In commemoration of International Day for Women and Girls in Science, Research Fellow Dr Eleonora Adami, from Duke-NUS’ Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders Programme, shares with us her passion for science and art.
SCIENCE AND ART
I am a postdoctoral research fellow with a background in molecular biology and genomics, and with a passion for illustration.
I view this as a false dichotomy, and I strongly believe we would need to bring more art into scientific practice. It’s great to see that several scientific institutes are now promoting art residency programmes, because both science and art benefit from creative thinking. In my opinion, art and science are somewhat complementary ways we, as humans, use to make sense of the world around us.
Both art and science require individuals to be versed in a certain field of knowledge and possess a given set of skills.
Both art and science require practice, reveal new “truths” and change how we perceive the world.
As scientists, we ask questions to pinpoint novel aspects of reality (e.g. a certain biological process), and then distill and communicate this information in structured, traditional ways. I try to let my passion for illustration percolate my scientific work. Leveraging my scientific education on one side and my artistic inclination on the other, I strive to create clear visual solutions that effectively communicate my research findings. In the light of movements such as “Anti-vax”, the spread of fake news, I feel that now – more than ever – engaging the public with clear science communication is really important. Often, research is funded by tax payers’ money and therefore, we, as scientists have a duty to communicate our findings. Visuals are very well suited for it – more immediate, less jargon.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
Outside of the lab, I try to cultivate creative outlets: drawing, photography, pottery.
At the moment, I am a contributing artist and content editor of a science communication/ outreach project developed with the Sci-Illustrate team; together, we highlight the achievements of women scientists to fight stereotypes. I do it mostly to inspire younger generations and get more girls to consider pursuing careers in STEM. It is heartbreaking to hear young girls say that they are not smart enough to be scientists.
Unfortunately, in science, there is still a big under-representation of women in leadership roles. Nonetheless, alternative role-models in STEM are out there and deserve attention.
Duke-NUS has an excellent mentoring programme in place to support female scientists (big shout-out to Asst Prof Ann-Marie Chacko and Lakshmi Ramachandran). It is an excellent opportunity for early career female researchers to learn how to lean in and try to break the glass ceiling.
Throughout my career, I have studied and worked in five different countries, interacting with international teams. Working with people that come from different backgrounds and cultures makes you a better scientist. It teaches that there’s no one way to do things, and everyone needs to strive to be as precise and clear as possible when interacting with others, not taking things for granted. Because of my personal experience, I deeply care and I am actively promoting diversity and inclusion in science; because I think that everyone would benefit from incorporating these values in the workplace.
In keeping with this, I joined an online community of STEM professionals called TheSTEMSquad, dedicated to increasing the representation of people with marginalized backgrounds in STEM disciplines. I have contributed two t-shirt designs and part of the proceeds go to a charity that supports migrants’ rights and funds micro-grants for science communication.
About a Nature blogpost: Last October, I made a contribution (in text and illustrations) to a piece published as a blogpost on the NatureResearch – Behavioral and Social Sciences website, as part of the series, “Is it publish or perish for PhD students?”. In this commentary, entitled, “Tailoring our C.A.P.E.S. for a successful career in science”, we propose five indicators to assess the quality of a research profile that goes beyond sole publication record.
To view more of Eleonora’s art, visit her website at BRUSH and PIPETTE.