From the Ridiculous to the Sublime
Art and the laboratory are inextricably intertwined
Summer 2019 marks the fourth year running that The Pathologist has hosted a gallery feature to showcase the artistry that emerges from the lab. Each year, the offerings are stellar, and each year, they become more creative. I’ve seen abstract paintings, paper quilling, animated GIFs, and even a nine-year-old’s mixed media collage of a microscope!
I love seeing the submissions that come in each year – not only because they are beautiful, but because they remind me of one of a diagnostic professional’s most vital traits: creativity. It’s true that, often, the slide under the microscope (or the peaks on the spectrometer, or the lab values on the computer screen) seems straightforward and easy to label. But that’s not always the case – and when it isn’t, the ability to look beyond the typical becomes a valuable skill.
Pathology is a deeply visual discipline – so it comes as no surprise that its practitioners are equally so. I’ve met laboratory medicine professionals who draw, paint, or even sculpt as a hobby. I’ve met still more who do none of those things, but still find ways to marry the creative with the analytical. Take the popular social media hashtag #PathArt, for example. Those who contribute to it seek out the unusual, the humorous, and the bizarre in the images they see every day. Flowers in colon crypts; the Cookie Monster in a dentinal tubule; a chameleon in a thyroid smear. These ideas may sound silly at first, but consider that these people are training their pattern recognition skills. By looking for the outline of a dog in a frozen section, they may be honing their ability to look for an abnormal finding in an otherwise normal specimen.
So be proud of your paintings, your photographs, your Cookie Monsters! Share your work on the #PathArt hashtag and on the covers of journals! Never underestimate the value of an artist’s eye in a scientist’s laboratory and – perhaps just as important – never underestimate the value of a sense of humor in a serious field of medicine and research.
Take a look at our gallery special feature here!
While obtaining degrees in biology from the University of Alberta and biochemistry from Penn State College of Medicine, I worked as a freelance science and medical writer. I was able to hone my skills in research, presentation and scientific writing by assembling grants and journal articles, speaking at international conferences, and consulting on topics ranging from medical education to comic book science. As much as I’ve enjoyed designing new bacteria and plausible superheroes, though, I’m more pleased than ever to be at Texere, using my writing and editing skills to create great content for a professional audience.