Understanding Biology through Art

biology illustrations header

With the enormous amount of information floating around about our dear C virus, a few in a non-biologist group came to a point when they were curious to know where exactly in our body was DNA. While one assumed DNA is in the brain, another was sure DNA is in the spinal cord.

I could only stare at the wall, trying to imagine if I would be able to locate a capacitor or resistor in an electronic circuit. And that’s how I regained from the shock, consoling myself of how all is fair in love and war.

Biology is an over-whelming subject to many who did not study biology beyond school. Huge textbooks, too many terminologies, difficult-to-follow figures, hell a lot of facts…….just exactly how I felt when I opened my sister’s fluid mechanics textbook!

Even without a formal education in computer science, most of us fairly know what it means to upload, download, format, debug, re-boot, or hack. Yes, we practically use these concepts in our daily life. Unfortunately, blame it on our education or our high school biology teacher, we have lost our connection with our own bodies. When we get hiccups, we drink a glass of water without ever being curious to know what was happening inside our throats.

If we were asked, “Where is your heart?” we would probably place our hands on the left side of our chest to indicate where the heart is. But, have we once closed our eyes to visualize the blood and flesh form of our heart? Have we ever listened to connect the ‘lub’ and ‘dub’ sounds we hear to the closure of valves within our heart? (By the way, heart is not on the left side of the chest. It’s in the middle, just slightly tilted towards the left).

As adults, it may not matter to us whether we understand or not how our body works. It will work anyway, whether we understand it or not. But, if we did, believe me, we will be fascinated from how our grandmother’s nose came to be on our face to how something as tiny as a single cell can be the cause of death.

Ever since that historical conversation in the group, I have been pregnant with this idea for a few months now. Finally, here I deliver the first of the many babies from my head!

To brief you, this new series on my blog shall bring to you biology illustrations to explain simple concepts in biology.

Why through illustrations?

Being with children has shown me the natural way of learning and how it can evolve to education. The picture below shows three versions of an image of a car – my 3-year old’s, my 7-year old’s and mine.

What is apparent is that while my children reproduced their visualizations of how a car would look like, I recollected from my memory how the picture of a car would look like. If you were to delve a little deeper into this, you can understand a whole lot about how conditioning of what is familiar to us shapes our thinking process.

While not many of our houses look like a triangle above a square with a small door, strangely, we don’t think of any other way to draw a house. This is because we are conditioned to how the picture of a house would look like rather then how a real house looks like. In other words, over the years, somewhere during our transition from a child to an adult, we had stopped visualizing.

This series intends to restart the visualization process!

Biology illustrations can be powerful tools to restructure our perspectives of what has been conditioned all along. I promise you, it will not be those over-whelming kind of figures in biology textbooks. Rather, you will be eavesdropping on what sperms are chatting to each other; you will be jaw-dropping at the busy life of the tiny factories inside you; and you will be falling in love with your every little chromosome – be it an X or a Y!

By the way, I am a postgraduate in biotechnology, had been a cell biologist in anti-cancer drug development, and presently a content developer of graduate-level textbooks in biological sciences. Cell biology, genetics, human anatomy and physiology are my areas of expertise. And I am soon going to tell you what each one of them deals with.

Meet you all soon through biology illustrations!

6 Replies to “Understanding Biology through Art”

  1. Omg this is so awesome. I just fell in love with the best sisters and dudes on your illustration. Especially, ‘dude are we anywhere close’ is unbelievably hilarious and informative at the same time. Way to go Nandhini 👏🏻. Eager to read more of your science communication illustration gems here. Can’t wait 😊

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