By Kayleigh Chalkowski
The immense beauty and drama of the parasite world is well-known to parasitologists. After all, who could forget the grotesque, pulsing eye-stalks of a Leucochloridium-infected snail, or the poetic purple hues among Giemsa-stained Plasmodium parasites? Also well-known to parasitologists is that alongside this beauty lives immense complexity. Parasites are frequently microscopic, live in or on other hosts, and often have complex life cycles. For these reasons, aspects of their biology can be difficult to communicate, and parasitologists have long collaborated with artists to communicate their findings, or have illustrated parasitic forms themselves alongside scientific discoveries and taxonomic characterization.
In today’s era of rapid scientific development, integrating parasitology with the arts can be a game-changer for communicating complex topics in parasitology to diverse audiences. For early career parasitologists, however, there are a number of challenges to this pursuit, and explicit training and discussion of these topics are infrequent. That is why the theme of this year’s student symposium is “Communicating Complexity: integrating art, story and parasitology.” The symposium will feature three artist/scientists who will discuss cross-disciplinary collaboration, visual language, and techniques to make parasitology accessible to diverse audiences. New York Times best-selling author Dr. Kelly Weinersmith will discuss her journey learning how to communicate science as a parasitologist, and how collaborations with artists and other scientists have helped her communicate science effectively. Dr. Caroline Hu is a Harvard staff scientist/comics artist, and she will be discussing how comics as a medium can make parasitology more accessible by creating story-lines based on scientific publications and every-day life as a scientist. Mona Luo, natural illustrator and scientist, will be discussing visual language to effectively communicate topics in parasitology. These talks will be followed by a panel discussion on cross-disciplinary hurdles to integrating art with parasitology, techniques for fostering collaborative efforts, and scientific communication techniques and best practices. We look forward to a lively discussion on these topics, and to seeing you all this July!