Meet Our Students
Click on a student below to read their bio.
Class of 2019
About Carmen Burroughs
Having an artist as a father meant that when I started to show interest in art at a very early age I was encouraged to do so, and was constantly exposed to different types of art and artistic opportunities. While my interest in creating art only grew as I got older, I found the science portions of my curriculum gaining my attention more and more as well.
After completing high school, I found myself starting my undergraduate career at East Tennessee State University, where I initially decided on pre-med with an interest in pathology. I thought I could always keep art as a hobby on the sidelines. After my first semester, despite enjoying my science courses, I found myself not having time to make artwork and missing it greatly. My father suggested doing some more in-depth research into careers that might involve both art and science; this led me to a very quick google search result that I could not believe I did not find earlier – medical illustration!
I looked into the current programs throughout North America and knew almost immediately that that path was the one for me. I switched my major over to a Bachelor of Fine Arts, which I completed in 2015 with a concentration in printmaking and drawing. Along the way I took several biology and health science courses.
Now that I am part of the BMC program, I am so excited to not only have the opportunity to learn new ways of making art and communicating from a wonderful set of faculty, but to also work with others who are motivated and have such similar interests to mine while having their own diverse set of skills and experiences. I look forward to using what I learn and gain here to help educate and inspire others while doing the things I’ve always loved.
About Amy Cao
For a long time, I wasn’t necessarily sure how to harness and apply my passion for creating art, so I relegated it to the category of “hobby” in my life. During my undergraduate years at the University of California, Berkeley, I majored in Integrative Biology because within the elegant biological mechanisms of living organisms, I found the same beauty that I saw in the puzzle piece-brushstrokes of a painting.
While exploring many different fields and careers within biology, I found scientific education especially worthwhile. For example, I worked at the Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology preparing animal specimens for museum curation and moved on to teaching other students dissection techniques as an undergraduate teaching assistant. I quickly realized the vital role that visuals play in education and research. When I used my artistic skills to create things like museum displays or club flyers, the enthusiastic responses to my work led me to recognize that I value creating images which communicate ideas clearly and beautifully. I became intrigued by the idea of working in a career at the intersection of art and science. After undergrad, I spent two years in Japan as a high school assistant English teacher, paying attention to the ways students learn and absorb information while working on my artistic skills on the side.
Now, I am so grateful to be here in the BMC program, surrounded by incredibly hard-working and talented peers and professors. I am eager to develop my skills and become part of the medical illustrator community!
About Jenny Chin
Like a lot of kids, I grew up around cartoons and comics that pulled me into drawing at an early age. I drew both for fun and to help myself learn, but I never thought I would be able to turn it into a career. In high school, I was exposed to the wonders of science through illustrations and animations, and I quickly developed an interest in the microscopic world of cell biology. Upon graduation, I had a choice to make: whether to follow my heart and pursue art or to choose the safer path and pursue biology. I was overjoyed when my biology teacher introduced me to the idea of combining my passions in the field of medical illustration.
I chose to study Cell & Molecular Biology and Immunology at the University of Toronto, where I created graphics for the Human Biology department, and drew personal commissions on the side, all the while working towards my original passion. With the amount of brute memorization in the undergraduate curriculum, it became increasingly obvious to me that I wanted to make visual tools that would help students learn their course material, especially the kind that involve storytelling and molecular animations. In my third year, I learned about BMC, and it just clicked. Now that I’m a part of the program, I’m excited to meet like-minded people and learn about all the aspects of the medical illustration field!
About Julia Devorak
My path to biomedical communications has been anything linear. As a young person with diverse interests and abilities, it can be difficult to know which educational and professional avenues to pursue– especially when you’re unaware of the existence of fields of study and work that combine your seemingly disparate interests! When the time came for me to make a decision about which path to take, I initially chose science over art and communications, and I completed a bachelor’s degree in the multi-disciplinary field of Cognitive Science at McGill University. I went on to spend a few years conducting basic neuroscience research in the McGill Group for Suicide Studies and pursued graduate studies in neuroscience. A need to satisfy my creativity, and not just my intellect, ultimately lead me away from basic research in a field I find so fascinating. It was at this point that I happened across U of T’s Biomedical Communications program (a dream I didn’t even know I had!), and I began to actively pursue art again, for the first time in a long time. I studied classical drawing with a talented and inspiring mentor, and I also got involved in clinical research investigating the genetic epidemiology of common, ageing-related diseases to keep my curiosity at bay.
Now a part of BMC, I could not be happier! I’m surrounded by an incredibly talented and inspiring group of peers, and I have the opportunity to indulge my creativity and intellect every day, learning about diverse subject matters in health and science and developing technical skills to effectively visually communicate about these topics. Needless to say, I’m really looking forward to what the next two years (and beyond!) will hold.
About Contessa Giontsis
I used to view my life as a straight line, with a clear starting point and a focused end; but as time went by, I realized that life is more of a zig-zag. You don’t always know where you will end up, but this can be good as it makes a person to choose what they truly love.
I have always loved to draw. I went to an art high school and completed their visual arts program. It wasn’t until we started doing life drawing that I became very passionate about human anatomy. Eager to learn more about the human body, I completed an undergraduate degree in kinesiology at the university of Toronto. By this point, I was focusing so much on science courses that I was certain that drawing was a chapter in my life that I closed…that was until I stumbled upon the BMC program at a graduate fair. I did not expect to find a graduate program that combined two seemingly diametric disciplines which I both loved – science and art.
I am humbled and immensely grateful for having this opportunity to be a part of the BMC program. I am thrilled to have found a way to pursue my passion for both art and science. I am excited to learn new visual techniques that can help increase understanding in a variety of disciplines; and I can’t wait to break the boundaries of what we currently know about what visual communication can offer the world!
About Maurita Hung
I previously completed my Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Toronto, with a double major in physiology and pharmacology. I remained in the physiology department at U of T after graduation and obtained my master of science degree under the supervision of Dr. Christine Bear. Upon finishing up and writing my thesis, I came to the realization that I enjoyed spending time creating figures. I liked the challenge of conveying scientific ideas effectively through visual means, and my interests in scientific research began to merge with my newly discovered enthusiasm for art. I had previously taken art courses at the high school level but my focus shifted entirely to the science stream once I entered university. It was and still is intimidating for me to pick up art again, but nonetheless, I am excited to be a part of the Biomedical Communications program and look forward to improving my skills over the next two years.
About Mona Li
According to my mother, I learned to hold a pencil at the age of one. As I’ve been drawing before I could speak, visual media have always been my preferred mode of sharing knowledge, stories, and ideas.
In high school, I was an Arts Canterbury Visual Arts (Ottawa, ON) student. My art teacher once showed me a stunning illustration by a Canterbury and BMC alumnus. When I was applying for university life science programs, he bet that I would eventually come back to art.
I completed my BSc at McGill University, majoring in Honours Psychology. Those four years, I fostered my love for the human mind and its interplay with health, and dabbled in various fields of research (from synthetic chemistry to immunology to psychophysiology). Despite prioritizing my academic interests, I found myself filling my free time with illustration, graphic design, and videography. Realizing that what I love most about scientific discovery is how its communication can transform society, I recalled that moment in high school. My teacher was right; I applied for BMC.
I am beyond excited to work on projects that combine my passions for human health and communications. This group is incredibly diverse and talented, and I look forward to the impact we will make.
Yue (Shawn) Liu
About Yue (Shawn) Liu
Four years of undergraduate study inspires me to pursue further study in scientific illustration, storyboarding and animation making. I developed ability in storytelling by using visualized illustrations during course presentations among human biology and microbiology courses.
I am committed to the understanding and transformation of complex scientific concepts into interesting and interactive images that educate public audience. Thinking that many students like me are struggling with enormous challenges of difficult course work, I decided to write articles on a Chinese social platform (WeChat), which aims to share the basic scientific knowledge in a straightforward way by using the scientific illustration method among undergrads. Remarkably, many of the topics described by my cartoonized presentations propagated beyond student community into social media and became effective tools for popularization of science.
At this point, I feel the urge to advance my understanding of the biomedical communication, and improve my skill sets, as I recognize that the depth and breadth of my knowledge and skills are not enough for me to project significant impact without additional training in achieving high quality works (i.e. drawing and animation producing) with logical organization.
About Shirley Long
I was in love with three things growing up. As soon as I could put pencil to paper, I began drawing and trying to depict the world around me in a way that I could look back and experience it again. Then came my addiction to reading and learning about science – those “aha” moments when you finally understand how something works. I also developed a fascination with aesthetic and design – how superficially changing the way something looks/interacts with you can alter your feelings and deeper experiences of them. However, at the time those interests felt disjointed from one another, and so I put my other hobbies in storage while I pursued the one that seemed most practical: science.
I attended the University of Western Ontario to pursue an honours spec. in Physiology and Pharmacology; all the while, those other interests never left me. I still found myself involved with non-traditional projects and classes – for example, developing and growing the national “Scinapse” Undergraduate Case Competition, an initiative in which we re-designed traditional didactic science class into something that you would experience in an interactive business school. Through a moment of serendipity, my professor caught me drawing in class (oops) and recommended me the Biomedical Communications program. This catalyzed a series of freelance projects and my realization that there was an entire field encapsulating all of my interests: a way to apply visual art and design-thinking to make complex scientific information accessible, and even inspiring. Suffice it to say, I am extremely excited to be a current student of the BMC program where I am surrounded daily by challenging projects and talented like-minded peers.
About Bernadette MacNeil
About Kimberly Nipp
One day, during a neuroanatomy lecture in my undergrad, I realized that I had spent the entire time thinking about comics and cartoons instead of paying attention to the actual material. What a life changing moment that was. I’ve always had a bit of my heart somewhere with animation and science. In fact, my undergraduate years were a cycle of studying neuroscience, and preparing art for comic conventions.
Somewhere in my second year, I began to work as a freelance illustrator and animator. At the time, I was devoted to researching the neurobiological mechanisms of antidepressants, but the thing in my life that brought me the most joy was drawing. Eventually by chance, I was connected with a professor in my neuroscience program who was also interested in the intersection between visual art and education. The next few years after that began to define my path. During my freelance career while working for this professor, I had the opportunity to try drawing for many different fields. I drew for education websites, made stop-motion animations for biochemistry courses, and created comics and illustration for other creative sectors. That’s when I began to think I could do this for a living, but where could I begin? Anyway, to be completely honest, I consulted the almighty google. “GOOGLE, how can I combine art and science for a career?!” I yelled into the void. Then this incredible program popped up in my search query, and the rest was history. I’m very glad to be here and learning among such talented and creative peers.
About Avesta Rastan
Having a physicist for a father and an artist for a mother, I grew up in a very scientifically-oriented family that also valued creativity. From an early age I developed a deep fascination of the universe. This fascination paired with my creative inclination led to a diverse range of interests that made it extremely difficult to pick one ‘path.’
Have you ever felt the sensation of looking for something but you aren’t sure what? That’s how I felt applying to universities in my senior year of high school. I researched industrial design, aeronautical engineering, and neurosurgery, but none seemed to integrate art and science in the way I was looking for. I ended up doing my BSc in Life Sciences at Queen’s University with a minor in World Language Studies in order to keep my options open and to satisfy my innate curiosity. Throughout my undergrad, I found myself producing graphic designs for myriad of clubs, but only considered it an enjoyable pass time. My eureka moment occurred in my third year of undergraduate studies when, by a stroke of luck, my housemate found the Biomedical Communications program. For the first time I had no doubt that this was what I was meant to do. My decision to apply was consolidated over the next year as I worked as the Graphic Design Manager for a media service on campus and was later offered a job creating scientific illustrations for the Queen’s Bachelor of Health Sciences program.
I believe the power of art lies in its ability to educate, influence, and inspire others. As a BMC student, I aspire to cultivate my artistic and technical skills such that I can inspire future scientific leaders through innovative and effective visual communication of complex scientific information.
Felix Donghwi Son
About Felix Donghwi Son
My interest in science and art developed very early in my childhood. I spend my whole days in my backyard with insects, fish and animals. And art has been always a part of my family life. Although my interest in art and science perplexed me, my curiosity in biology led me to pursue studying microbial world. I completed my Bachelor of Science in Microbial Engineering at Konkuk University. When I discovered medical illustration as a career, I was extremely thrilled that I could combine my interest in science and art and my previous working experience into a profession which led me come to Toronto all the way from South Korea! One of my goals is to be a Certified Medical Illustrator specializing in cellular and sub-cellular visualization here in Canada.
Now, I am thrilled to join the BMC program, the amazing community, with so much inspiring and professional people. And I cannot explain how much I am happy that I have the opportunity to learn a deeper knowledge and technique of professional visual communication.
About Nitai Steinberg
Three years ago, one year into my PhD studies in microbiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel – I was randomly browsing the internet when I stumbled upon the BMC website. I remember the immediate feeling I finally found what I wanted to do in life.
Looking back, scientific illustrations and animations led me to choose biological studies in the first place. In my high school biology class, I found an illustration of the perfect structure of the HIV capsid in a textbook, and I knew I wanted to know more. Later, while studying for my undergraduate degree, I remember gazing in astonishment at a 3D animations of ATPase synthase activity, or the construction and rotation of bacterial flagella – and was amazed that such elaborated molecular machines could exist. But I never thought about the people who made those illustrations or animations.
I always felt a strong attraction to visual arts and envied people who did it, but was afraid to seriously try it myself. I chose to continue in science, but deep inside I knew I have to find a way to express this other side of me. Luckily, thanks to BMC, I learned that there is a profession that can allow me to do it, and I knew I had to try and apply. It was a long journey since then, as I had to catch-up with drawing and painting techniques, and fighting fears and self-doubts, all in parallel to completing my PhD. I was thrilled to hear that I was accepted and feel deep gratitude to be here now. I am excited to study how to become a professional biomedical illustrator. On the very first day of the program I already had a strong feeling I found my place.
Colleen Tang Poy
About Colleen Tang Poy
Art has always been a constant for me; growing up, I chose to saturate my life in the arts via my hobbies—in visual art and cinematography—and arts-related extracurricular activities—such as theatre, music, and dance. Particularly, it was animation’s ability to potentially integrate all of these art forms that excited me, and drove me to spend many hours of my childhood watching and re-watching featurettes on the creative process for animated films and television shows.
My interest in scientific research, teaching, and helping others led me to pursue an undergraduate degree in Psychology, Neuroscience, & Behaviour with a specialization in Mental Health at McMaster University. Consequently, art remained a hobby for me as my educational focus became more concentrated in science. However, my passion for art continued to spill over into everything I did regardless. From using the arts as a TA to engage with and teach students, to completing my senior’s thesis using eye-tracking to study dance, I continually found myself creating or seeking opportunities that integrated art and science. From this, I found how complimentary these seemingly polar opposite disciplines were—science creating new mediums to create art, and art creating new ways to communicate science—and became more and more interested in learning how I could situate myself where these domains intersect.
Thanks to a friend, I found the Biomedical Communications program at U of T and I immediately knew that this was what I wanted to do—combine science, art, and teaching to benefit the community at large. I am unbelievably humbled and grateful to be part of the BMC community among such talented and warm individuals, and am thrilled to learn from them.
About Rachael Whitehead
From growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I developed an early love for nature and biological subject matter. Like many children, I loved to draw, but tended to focus on detail and accuracy while depicting the natural world around me. Though I did not appreciate it at the time, I also developed an interest in learning and describing medical related topics from spending time as a child around hospitals and doctors.
During my Junior year in high school, one of my teachers suggested looking into the idea of becoming a medical illustrator. Though at the time I had been toying with the idea of becoming a freelance illustrator, it felt like a natural choice to focus my efforts to become a scientific illustrator, instead. I love to learn about biological and scientific subjects, but I can not picture a career where I could not be imaginative and create illustrations or visual diagrams.
I went on to receive a BS degree in General Biology and a BA degree in Painting and Drawing from University of Washington, Seattle. During and after university, I worked on a variety of illustration projects with a range of subject matter and clients. Through these projects and though classes, I found how much I enjoyed illustrating natural history subjects and also finding new approaches to visually describing a scientific concept from neuroanatomy to paleontology.
I was absolutely thrilled when I was given the chance to become part of this Biomedical Communications program here at University of Toronto. I hope to learn many different techniques and skills during this amazing opportunity. I am excited to work with a group of individuals who all share a passion for illustrating and communicating scientific and medical subject matter.
About Tracy Xiang
Wanting to be fully immersed in a research-intensive environment, I chose University of Alberta’s Honours Immunology and Infections Program for undergrad. However in my second year, I realized that I needed more than just memorizing molecular pathways to satisfy my love of visual problem solving –– which has became my sole motivation for understanding the more theoretical part of immunology. An idle googling session lead me to the Biomedical Communications homepage. When I read the words “Biomedical Communications”, something clicked: communication, that’s what I’m good at, and that’s what I want to do. After I found out that UTM had an undergraduate BMC program, I began gathering my transfer documents.
My transfer to UTM was a worthwhile one. I was closer to a community that I could relate myself so much to –– a group of passionate and dedicated people who bridge the gap between knowing the science, and the need to understand it. I gained new appreciation for the value of production standards and scientific conventions in HSC200 (Imaging Technologies for Scientific Visual Communication) and HSC302 (Biocommunication Visualization), discovered the dynamic field of infovis in HSC301(Data and Information Visualization), and learned about how to effectively integrate analogue information to digital media in HSC404 (Advanced Visual Media for Anthropological data). In my fourth year, I applied my newly gained technical skills to my ROP (Research Opportunity Program) project, where I developed animations explaining epidemiological study designs under Dr. Derek Ng and Dr. Helene Wagner’s supervision. During that time, I was also fortunate enough to collaborate with clinicians from Dr. Ming Chan’s Peripheral Nerve Regeneration Group at the University of Alberta Hospital, as well as emerging Ontario startups such as Epineuron Technologies. Every project, whether it came from academia or industry, never failed to remind me how important it is for researchers and innovators to communicate our knowledge to those who need it.
It’s truly a privilege to continue this wild ride of learning and discovery alongside the wonderful people of BMC. I look forward to grow from a visual art lover and science marketer who sells others’ ideas, to an educator who breaks complicated information down effectively and accurately.
About Alexander Young
I graduated from the Integrated Science (iSci) program at McMaster University in 2014 and found myself at an interesting crossroad. For much of my undergraduate, I was interested in design, illustration, and how visual content could be effectively used to enhance public scientific literacy; however, academically I had been focused on research and the idea of entering Veterinary Medicine. I elected to take a year off and refocus, and began to work in the filed of graphic design and communications – a long-time interest, but one that I never imagined would meaningfully intersect with my previous studies. Before long, I found that my side interest was much more than that. The more I worked on design projects and illustrations, the more I became fully enamored, and curious as to whether my interests were as immiscible as I imagined. As a result, within only a few months of graduating and starting to work, I was researching academic opportunities that merged science and art.
Early on in my search I discovered the Masters of Science in Biomedical Communications (BMC), and equally early on I knew it was a perfect fit. From the focus BMC places on using emerging technologies to facilitate effective communication, to the supportive and welcoming Faculty, and the incredible talent of the students and graduates, BMC seemed like the ideal place to learn and develop my skills as an illustrator, animator, and science communicator.
I’m thrilled I was given the opportunity to continue my learning in BMC alongside so many talented individuals, and am excited to learn everything I can throughout the duration of my studies. Currently, I am particularly interested in using animated narratives for public science education, and how we can best utilize augmented and virtual reality technology for educational purposes.
Class of 2018
About Chelsea Canlas
My interest in science and art developed very early in my childhood. My father encouraged me to be curious – to find out what things are made of, and how things work. While he taught me how to observe the world, my mother taught me how to appreciate it through the visual arts. After attending an art academy, I was dead set on pursuing a career in art and design. In 2006, I began an undergraduate program in Illustration at OCAD University. It wasn’t until my second year anatomy course that I was introduced to the field of medical illustration. I was intrigued by the idea of communicating scientific concepts through visual means. My professor urged my enthusiasm and recommended the BMC program.
Shortly after my graduation, I worked as a graphic communications designer and worked on many projects, including creating print and environmental graphics for cultural institutions. Although I had found the work interesting, I felt the most fulfilled creating conceptual diagrams and illustrations for science museums. I enjoyed the challenge of taking complex ideas and finding an engaging and universal solution that can be communicated to all audiences. With this realization, I took a leap of faith and went back to school to further my science education.
Now as a student of the BMC program, I am so honoured to be a part of a community of scientists, artists and innovative thinkers. My goal is to create opportunities for others to be curious and constantly learn, and ultimately advance the public’s education of health and medical science.
About Nati Chen
I was first introduced to the idea of using art to communicate science during an invertebrate zoology course at Brown University. For my final project, I created a stop-motion animation explaining the mechanics of a stomatopod’s strike. This experience was challenging, but it jump-started my interest in the intersection of art, animation, and science.
Throughout university, I noticed how important visuals tools are in science. As a TA, I often drew parasite life cycles or dogfish shark nerves on the blackboard. Moreover, I learned how art could be used to inform research. For my honors thesis, I used x-ray motion capture technology to visualize bass suction feeding as 3D animations in Maya.
After completing my ScB in Marine Biology, I had the opportunity to draw kangaroo bones for a journal publication. The experience of working with Professor Janis solidified my decision to pursue a career in scientific communications.
Since I had never received any formal art training, I enrolled in VanArts’ 2D animation program to develop my observational drawing skills and learn how to animate in Harmony.
I am thrilled to be a part of the BMC program because I believe the experience will be an invaluable next step for my career. I am especially excited to learn how to use different media to communicate scientific information. I also look forward to learning from such a diverse, talented group of artists and scientists!
About Sarah Crawley
I fell in love with animation and illustration in my senior year of high school. I applied to art college, but did not want to give up my interests in history, math and physics. So instead, I decided to pursue an undergraduate degree in East Asian history at the University of Toronto. On the side, I edited and illustrated campus publications, such as the Victoria College student newspaper The Strand, the Victoria College journal Acta Victoriana, and Juxtaposition Global Health magazine. The more I worked on these projects, the more I realized that illustration was the field I wanted to go into. Moreover, I searched for a way to pursue an illustration career that would include projects involving challenging emotional and intellectual topics.
While I had previously been aware of the work of medical and scientific illustrators, I had not really considered the field as a distinctly trained group within the illustration community. The more I learned about the practice, and about the Biomedical Communications program in particular, the more deeply I was inspired. The practice seemed to encompass all of the aspects of learning and creating that I cared about, so after finishing my undergraduate degree in history I began to take the necessary science foundations in biology and anatomy. With each course I took, I gained appreciation for the beauty of medical artwork and its importance. I am excited by all of the many branches of biomedical communication, but am extremely passionate about pursuing animation as a tool for patient communication, particularly in how such applications can be used in the context of neuropathology.
About Jerry Gu
As a child, I have always had a keen sense of artistic curiosity and control; but it was not until my high school visual arts classes that my illustration interests began to flourish alongside academia. I went on to study biochemistry during my undergraduate endeavours at McGill University, during which I immersed myself in various student visual arts groups and newspaper illustrations as well.
Subsequently, I propagated my academic interests into graduate research at University of Toronto, under Dr. Cordula Enenkel’s supervision. With her guidance, I investigated the dynamic intracellular localization of proteasomes – conserved macromolecular complexes responsible for targeted protein turnover in cells. I also had the immense privilege of both co-authoring and illustrating for the review article ‘Proteasome assembly’, published 2014 in Cell Mol Life Sci.
Looking forward, one of my primary interests in biomedical communications is to empower the general public in health and scientific awareness, by engaging their interests and bridging the communications gap between non-translational research and lay audiences. Also of interest to me are the untapped potentials of next-generation media such as virtual / augmented reality, as rich interactive interfaces for exchanging various biomedical concepts.
About Nancy Ji
Ever since I was a child, I have always been a girl with a restless mind. I enjoyed reading all kinds of books, with my favourite one being the Encyclopedia. I developed many hobbies and many dreams, and some of them still have a strong impact on me to this day. The wild imagination that was nurtured by my love of reading could find no better outlet than the world of art. Although I have never received any trainings in drawing, this passion has stayed with me for as long as I can remember.
In the subsequent years, school has expanded my horizons and opened my eyes to new parts of the universe. Because of this, I developed a deeper interest in the biological sciences, and decided to pursue Neuroscience as my undergraduate education. In the midst of a full studying and working schedule, I struggled to make time for drawing, to keep my artistic side alive, but when I discovered BMC, this dilemma of choosing art or science no long exists. BMC gives me the niche in which I can place both of my passions, and everyday I am motivated by a group of intelligent and inspiring people. Perhaps along with my interests in travelling and language-learning, one day I will be able to bring the knowledge of biomedical visualization to more places around the world.
About Andrea Lam
Growing up, I had always been drawn to art and sciences. I graduated from McMaster University with a degree in Biology (Physiology Specialization), taking courses that focused on human anatomy and physiology, biomechanics, as well as exercise physiology—however, I often put art as a second priority to my academic studies.
Since a child, I greatly admired digital art and animations, and picked up a tablet partway through high school. Since then, I taught myself through internet tutorials and kept drawing as a hobby throughout my undergraduate years—though I often felt guilty for not using my time to study. Regardless, I found excuses to keep practising through school assignments, various personal projects ranging from t-shirt designs to an iOS game. As graduation pended, I considered various careers in the healthcare field, and ultimately discovered the field of medical illustration. Like many of my peers, it was eye-opening; I had never imagined that I could combine two of my interests together.
Currently, I’m beyond excited to be a part of this program at UofT, and to be surrounded by very talented and like-minded peers. I have high hopes and look forward to improving my skills as a biomedical communicator.
About Aileen Lin
I completed my undergraduate degree in cognitive science with minors in physiology and computer science at the University of Toronto. I was interested in the psychology and physiology of the human mind, and this interdisciplinary mix allowed me to draw together knowledge and viewpoints from diverse fields. I’ve also always had a passion for drawing and painting. During my degree, this interest only grew—there was (and is) always a sketchbook and a well-used drawing tablet on my desk. When I heard about the BMC program, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to use my artistic skills to explain and communicate scientific concepts. I aimed for it.
While preparing for this program, I dissected various animals, including a harp seal, a dogfish shark, and a cat, and had several opportunities to create children’s illustrations used in education and healthcare. These experiences gave me a taste of the field of biomedical communications and convinced me that I wanted to be part of it.
I’m thrilled to finally be part of this program, and I’m so excited to spend the next two years further developing my artistic skills and scientific knowledge with such a diverse and talented group of peers.
About Lucas Lin
As a child, I could spend a whole afternoon in my backyard, stalking dragonflies and hornets with cheap butterfly nets. When night fell, I would retreat back to my room and sketch drawings that told stories about the world full of invertebrates that we lived in. I have always used my love for art as a medium to communicate my passion for the sciences. However, I found myself at a crossroads when it came time to decide which of the two seemingly polarizing career choices to pursue. At the end of my undergraduate Biology degree at the University of British Columbia, I excitedly discovered the BMC program. I began to seek opportunities to allow me to integrate my skills in the sciences and the arts, such as creating exhibition posters at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum and Entomological diagrams. Now, I am thrilled to be in a program surrounded by inspiring, like-minded individuals, and can’t wait to learn and grow with this community of Biomedical Communicators.
About Maiko Matsuda
My love of art comes from my elder sister. From a young age, I had always enjoyed watching her draw my favorite cartoon characters. It was mesmerizing to watch lines of graphite magically form into familiar figures one by one. I too, wished to recreate my them on paper. From then on, I spent time drawing and observing artworks. It didn’t take long until art became an integral part of my life.
Despite my lifelong interest in art, during my final year of high school, I made my decision to pursue biological science at the University of Toronto. Biological science was my newly found passion, ever since taking a biology course during my sophomore year at high school. While I greatly enjoyed my four years of learning Life Science, my passion for art never died. I had always hoped it possible to apply both science and art in my future career.
It was during my third undergraduate year at the University of Toronto when I came across the Masters of Biomedical Communications. I immediately knew that Biomedical Communications is the path leading to the field that I longed. I decided to take a year off after graduating with double majors in Neuroscience and Cell and Molecular Biology in preparation of my application to the program. When I learned of my acceptance, I was ecstatic that a dream I previously thought improbable may finally come true.
I can never be more grateful for this opportunity. I am determined to make the most out of the two years at the Masters of Biomedical Communications. I trust the Biomedical Communication curriculum and the teaching staff will inspire me to broaden my vision as to how I can contribute to the biomedical field.
I wish to become a biomedical communicator, who serve as an inspiration to those around me, just like how my sister is to me.
About Amanda Miller
I grew up in Minneapolis, MN with a love of both art and science. I enjoyed art because it made me feel like I had no limitations, giving me the freedom to express my thoughts and turn my ideas into beautiful paintings and drawings. I loved science because there were boundaries and rules and because I felt an extreme sense of accomplishment when I explored scientific principles in laboratory experiments and learned how things worked.
My passion for these different disciplines perplexed me at first, but this began to dissipate when I discovered Iowa State University’s Biological/Pre-Medical Illustration program. From the very start of my undergraduate career I knew this field was a perfect fit for me. I appreciated being a part of the close-knit learning community while taking on illustration job opportunities with a microbiology professor and mutation research lab. I am thrilled to be able to continue to apply my passion for art and science in the BMC program by using visual images, interactive technologies, and animation to accurately communicate health and science concepts to various audiences. I am loving the city of Toronto and look forward to forming another close-knit community with my talented peers!
About Patricia Nguyen
As I neared the end of high school, I was at a crossroad: to pursue science or art. I did my undergrad in Kinesiology at McMaster to follow my interests of the human body while putting art aside believing it would suffice as a hobby. I primarily studied biomechanics but also gained some exposure to sports field therapy and materials engineering. As the years progressed, it was evident that I did not quite fit in anywhere. I wasn’t meant to be a therapist, doctor or an engineer, there was just something missing.
It wasn’t until I found the BMC program in my last year that everything just clicked. Everything that I have been working for has led me to this. My love of anatomy, science, drawing, research and storytelling were all coming together. I would like to apply the knowledge I gain from this program to work in the education field and promote the intersections between science, art and technology. Ideally, I would love to be creating engaging science comics that simplify abstract concepts and spark a joy of learning. Being able to be part of BMC among so many talented individuals is truly a dream come true.
About Ryan Park
In my mid-twenties, I decided I wanted to be an artist. But after 3 years of atelier instruction, stand-alone classes and self-study, I decided singular pursuit of beauty and self-expression as a lifestyle was not to my taste, although I loved the execution of art itself. Before studying traditional art, I trained as a scientist and engineer, completing an MS in biochemical engineering at UMBC. So as I looked around for more options, it seemed only natural that I unite the disparate scientific and artistic training I’ve had in a multidisciplinary program like BMC.
I think BMC excels in 3D and design / data visualization, and I can’t wait to learn as much as possible! Due to BMC’s strengths, it also excels in scientific education / communication; and through it, I want to learn to communicate the awe I have towards the inner workings of the natural world.
I love too many different artists and illustrators to count, but my current top three, in no particular order, are John Singer Sargent, Claire Wendling and Loish! I count among my teachers Hans and Andy Guerin, Carol Lee Thompson, and Robert Liberace.
About Lisa Qiu
I was once met by a stranger as a child who saw my drawings and asked me if art was my favourite subject. I was conflicted since science and math classes were also one of my favourites. He then said something along the lines of “you could be a medical illustrator” which stuck in my memory because I had never heard of it at the time. I began to cultivate my skills at The Academy of Realist Art in Toronto from the age of 11 and graduated recently. Meanwhile, I continued to pursue the sciences as a genuine interest completing my undergraduate studies with a specialist in Laboratory Medicine & Pathobiology at the University of Toronto. Throughout this time, I was keen on using science to make a difference but often found myself to be most communicative and useful through application of my artistic skills. As these two distinct interests continue to diverge throughout my schooling, I was always reminded of my memory of the stranger and sought out the Biomedical Communications program. I am honoured and ecstatic to now be a member of a community of such talented and driven individuals from whom I have much to learn. Already, I feel I have made the right choice for me and foresee a lifetime of fulfillment!
About Dani Sayeau
Having completed a Bachelor’s in Technical and Scientific Illustration at Sheridan college in 2014, Biomedical Communications felt like a logical next step. In my first year at Sheridan our class was introduced to anatomical drawing and ever since I’ve been interested in the fields of science and medical communication. Science Illustration became a means of fueling my own curiosity, honing my skills as an illustrator, and an opportunity to learn something new with each project. While completing a summer co-op at UHN in the patient and family education department in 2013 I decided to work towards becoming a Medical Illustrator.
After graduating from Sheridan I completed two years of undergraduate biology at the University of Toronto in preparation for BMC. In taking these courses I was always excited about just how fascinating the world of science is, eager to continue learning more. It suffices to say that I’m thrilled about being here and can’t wait to keep learning.
About Annie Tseng
I remember being intrigued when my senior classmate told me about medical illustration and agreeing that the program seemed to suit me very well, considering my science background, interest in health, talents in art and experience with coding and graphic design.
However, what really solidified my decision to pursue this field was my realization I was always involved in communicative ventures. To me, communication is not just about language, it also encompasses art, education, business and research. In all these fields, effective communication is about making ideas accessible to an audience by synthesizing concepts and catering to the perspective of the audience. I was consistently part of the creative aspect of projects, whether it was being an illustrator for school publications, branding a starting social business club, or creating audience-centered graphics and website design for clients as a hobby. I enjoyed interpreting information with my own artistic vision and juggling the fine line between providing accurate, thorough content while also adapting to my audience’s mindset. The challenge of learning new things and of creating accessible content was exhilarating for me.
The fundamental concept of communication and my passion for science and art ultimately intersect at my current resolution: I want to make science more accessible for others in a visual manner because it is universal and effective and because it is important that more of the population understands science. Through my courses, extra-curricular activities and my own observations, I noticed that scientific research is too often misinterpreted by the media and the general public which causes a lot of misunderstandings which are potentially health-threatening. Research should advance our knowledge and health, not jeopardize it. Thus, I hope to create educative material that will help improve people’s understanding of medicine and health.
About Felix Wieler
My fascination with the scientific world began early and was fostered by my family. Both of my grandfathers were school teachers and both shared a passion for science and the natural world. As a kindergartner, my aunt, a medical researcher, would explain medical images and experiments, including videos of laparoscopic surgery to me. The most read, loved and re-read books of my childhood were The Way Things Work by David Macaulay, a Gray’s Anatomy Colouring book and the DK Incredible Cross-Sections series. My interest in the foundations of of Bio-Medical Communications is something I come by honestly.
After highschool I was interested in pursuing several creative, technical fields and began studying at the Toronto School of Art. It was here where I learned about the BMC program which led me to an Honours B.Sc. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto. After graduating I spent time working to develop my traditional and digital art skills as preparation for BMC.
Now that I am starting my studies, I am excited about getting to participate in a program where my research, observation and understanding of the subject are integral to my practice. I see this program as an opportunity to cultivate my passion for science, technology, graphic design, visual art and interactive media. I am honoured to by the chance to study with peers and teachers who share my passion and hope to contribute to future innovations in the the art of science.