The next generation of biomedical animators

In 2012, VizbiPlus won a $350,000 Inspiring Australia grant to help three biomedical animators learn from the master—award-winning biomedical animator Drew Berry. They’re now applying their skills, telling medical stories, explaining epigenetics and demystifying gene technology.

nat-bt1VizbiPlus is a joint project of two top biomedical research institutes—The Garvan in Sydney and Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) in Melbourne—who saw the need to build their ability to visualise the minute workings of tiny cells and bio-molecules.

The WEHI team includes BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning biomedical animator Drew Berry. A trained cell-biologist, Drew animates the work of WEHI’s researchers with accurate illustrations drawn from real scientific data.

The VizbiPlus project saw Drew pass his skills on to three apprentice animators: CSIRO scientist Christopher Hammang, WEHI’s Maja Divjak and The Garvan’s Kate Patterson.

Four years on, Christopher is now at The Garvan, telling visual stories of medical research. Recently, he worked with Monash University to take people on a visual journey into the intestines to show how the FODMAP diet can bring relief to people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. And his representation of epigenetic changes on nucleosomes has graced the cover of Nature Biotechnology.

Maja is now a scientific animator at the Gene Technology Access Centre. Her Bordetella pertussis and Whooping Cough video is a fascinating and powerful public health education tool, reminding people of the importance of vigilance with this bacterium.

Kate remains a science communicator and animator at The Garvan Institute, illustrating the science of cancer in three dimensions. She is also a transdisciplinary researcher and senior lecturer with UNSW Art and Design, brining art and science together academically, and teaching visual science communication to a further group of science communicators.

The work of these three animators is being seen in usual places for science communication, including art galleries and even the big screen at Melbourne’s Federation Square.

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