Artistic talents of biology class go on display

by Eric Gorton


A montage of student art work, including drawings of birds, flowers, a horse and a frog.
Dr. Alex Bannigan says she is amazed at the quality of the work by students in her biological illustrations class. Click on photo to see larger image.

They study things like advanced molecular biology, animal field biology, genomics, neurobiology and botany.

They can talk about things like Vibrio vulnificus, microtubule cytoskeletons, neuroanatomical techniques and combatting chytridiomycosis.

But the students in Dr. Alex Bannigan's Bio 426 class obviously have talents beyond working with microscopes, investigating concoctions in Petri dishes and spending hours in the field observing animal and plant behavior. They are also pretty good using the tools of artists.

"I'm astounded," Bannigan said of the work produced by the students in her inaugural biological illustrations class. "I didn't really expect them to produce so much amazing stuff."

Examples of the work will go on display during final exam week in the second-floor hallway of the bioscience building.

Bannigan also was surprised by the interest in the class, which was started at the urging of two students from her microscopy class, seniors Hilary Kurland and Shelby Burns. The second offering of the one-credit class, next fall, is already filled.

Kurland, who studies microbiology, took three years of art in high school. "It's a nice stress reliever. It's relaxing," she said while working on a colorful freehand pencil-drawing of a Rainbow Lorikeet. Kurland will graduate in December and plans to continue studying biology in graduate school and do art on the side. She created her dazzling Lorikeet portrait using only a photo of the bird for reference.

Burns, who will graduate May 4, took photography for three years in high school. She said the biological illustration class has provided a creative outlet she yearned for. "I was so excited when Dr. Bannigan said she was thinking about it," she said.

Burns has several interests in biology, including conservation, ecology and microscopy. She said the course has taught her a lot about drawing and using some of the technology that graphic artists and illustrators use. On Wednesday, she was working on a drawing of Australian Gouldian Finches in Adobe Illustrator.

The diverse skills the students have along with what they are learning in the class could be very helpful in their careers, Bannigan said. "The diversity sets you apart. It makes you attractive to employers."

Bannigan is a prime example. Before getting her doctorate in cell biology, she worked as a graphic designer for a fertility company in her native Australia. The company was looking for someone who knew something about the science and who could also help put it in layman's terms on their literature and website.

"Biology and art are made for each other," Bannigan said.

Published April 26, 2013

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Published: Friday, April 26, 2013

Last Updated: Friday, April 12, 2019

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