Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Profile of a Mad Scientist: scientificculture

The Mad Scientists of Etsy present the fifth Mad Scientist Profile. Who are these people who both love science and love to create? What does science mean to them? How do they make the things they do? Well, we're going to tell you!

The image shows the set of finger puppets Kate from scientific culture made for MSOE's december challenge "Louis Pasteur". The set includes pasteur accompanied by a nice rabies-free cat with pasteurized milk as well as a culture of happy little culture of anthrax he made a vaccine further supporting his findings on germ theory.

As part of our continuing series, Sasha from whatnomints interviewed Kate from scientific culture. Kate builds all of her creations in her home in Kamloops, British Columbia (Canada), where she graduated with a degree in cellular, molecular, microbial biology. She has spent a while working lab jobs studying water microbiology and wildlife genetics and plans on heading back to school next year for Education so she can spread her science geeky excitement into the fragile minds of youth! She loves to spread her excitement through cute science crafts and blogging and has been creating as long as she can remember.

Why did you decide to start selling your awesome geeky goodies and how does your interaction with science inspire your work?

During my undergrad I took every possible opportunity to work some crafty fun into projects and presentations, whether it was a plush cross sectioned pseudomonas for microbiology, or subtly placed strong bad bacteriophage during a lambda life cycle for regulation of gene expression! It’s fun to express your passion for geeky science in new ways and I found that my classmates all got a kick out of my antics. This soon turned into crafting plush microbes for friends’ birthdays and eventually the cross over into Etsy selling.

My favorite items in your shop involve your cute anthropomorphic drawings. How did you come up with the idea for these and how do you create them?

My first anthropomorphic character I created was the ciliated bacillus I have as my avatar. He originated as a superhero character (with cape) that saved the day (with his fantastic array of microbial enzymes) in a cartoon I did for industrial microbiology. I liked him so much I decided more science items need to be spiced up with adorable wide set eye smiles! Voila! The cute science formula was born:

As for their creation, I’m pretty low tech. I draw out my characters with sharpies, scan them, and colour them using photoshop and a keen colour sense.

Did you experience an "a-ha moment" that made you realize that you wanted to be a scientist?

I’ve always been enthralled by how amazing the world is and science is a great tool for figuring out how each thing on our planet works! I think the closest thing I had to a “rest of my life” realization was how exciting Grade 11 Biology was! I quickly fell for every phylum (especially echinodermata) and loved memorizing every interesting tidbit of information. Once I hit University, I discovered a greater love for cellular, molecular, and microbial biology. I figure after this many years of science dedication there’s no turning back…

Do you have a favorite scientific instrument/procedure/chemical? Why? (You only have to pick one.)

My most favourite scientific procedure would have to be the Southern Blot. It is so amazing when you can team up microbiology and genetics into a huge plasmid fragment puzzle! It honestly baffles my mind how anyone came up with such complicated methods that seem so obvious and simple once you understand them. Plus figuring out DNA fragment placement from a bunch of gel electrophoresis bands is the epitome of cool.

What is the most interesting development in modern science you have come across recently? (Doesn't necessarily have to be well-known or chemistry-related.)

I’m not entirely sure about recent, but I think the most interesting molecular biology breakthrough is PCR (polymerase chain reaction). Talk about revolutionizing what is capable in the world of biology! And as a bonus it’s the same age as me! Every experiment I dabbled into has led me to thanking to wonders of PCR and even employed me in a population genetics lab! Hooray for PCR! In fact, I need to make a few anthropomorphic thermocyclers for my next button set…

Check out Kate's etsy shop scienticculture, her blog, her fan page on facebook, her flickr set and follow her on twitter.


Amanda said...

great interview! gotta love those wide set eye smiles!

kate said...

Thanks for the awesome post! I loved doing the interview :)

minouette said...

Thanks for participating Kate! I think it looks great. It's so easy to illustrate your interview because you combine art and science so seemlessly.

Michael Gull said...

Awesome to hear that you've got an interest in pcr, I just posted a funny video I found about a lab tech needed the assistance of a thermocycler. Hope you enjoy and keep up the good crafting work!


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