A blog about scientific and medical visualization and all that’s involved.

Archive for the ‘miscellaneous’ Category


Posted by Janet on May 29, 2009




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Skull Cleaning

Posted by Janet on May 10, 2009

On a recent volunteer trip to a state park, one of the other volunteers found a skull in the bushes. I decided to bring it home and add it to the collection. There was nothing to put it in except a used sandwich bag. When I took it out in the evening, it was covered with dirt from the ground and oil spots from the sandwich bag.

First, I wanted to sterilize the skull and get rid of large debris. I decided that boiling the skull was the quickest method. I had read about forensic anthropologists boiling parts to get rid of the muscle tissues, but was still a bit nervous about doing it. The image below shows the skull in a small stainless steel pot (part of a cookware set for children from IKEA, also very useful for small non-food projects)


Above: Dirty and oil-stained skull and a bone; Below: Skull in a pot for boiling.


Below: The skull is coming to a full boil. It’s NOT falling apart…it’s actually working. Yay.


After boiling and getting rid of larger debris, I left the skull in the water for an hour to cool. Then I drained the water, rinsed it a couple times, and filled the pot with hydrogen peroxide to cover the skull. After about a day, it removed the smaller debris and some of the coloration. Honestly, the result wasn’t as dramatic as I expected, but it did a good job. Overall, no damages except a tooth fell out, but I think it was going to fall out anyway.

Below: The nice, clean skull after boiling and a day of hydrogen peroxide treatment.


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Health Concerns with Postures and Back Pains

Posted by Janet on April 10, 2009

Postures and back pains are big concerns for many illustrators due to the sedentary nature of their work. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize the importance of good posture until it’s too late. When it comes to back pains, prevention is the best medicine. Sarah Scrafford, who regularly writes on the topic radiography college, offers advice below on how to minimize back problems.

Health Concerns with Postures and Back Pains
Research tells us that it is one of the leading causes for absenteeism in the workplace and that it ranks fifth in the list of hospital expenditures in the United States. Back pain is more often than not caused by bad posture rather than a result of an accident or an injury. Many of us are unaware of the dangers of slouching or sitting without adequate and correct support for our spines. In fact, the very act of being seated is a strain on our backs. And with most us leading sedentary lifestyles combined with working at jobs that require us to be seated for the better part of the day, is it any wonder that we’re prone to back aches that could easily turn out to be debilitating if we’re not careful.

When you don’t pay attention to your posture when you stand and when you don’t accord importance to providing adequate support for your back when you sit, you’re putting added strain on your muscles along the spinal cord. If this becomes a regular habit, you’re likely to suffer from various medical complications like constricted blood vessels and nerves and affected muscles, discs and joints. While some back pains are not too unbearable, if your discs are affected, it could end up necessitating major surgery.

If you want to minimize the chances of a bad back, here’s what you need to do:

  • Maintain the right posture, when sitting, standing or lying down.
  • You don’t have to stand at attention; it’s enough if you follow the natural S curve of your spine with your chin parallel to the ground.
  • If you’re standing for a long time, shift your weight around from one foot to the other. If possible, rest one foot on a small elevation like a stool for a while.
  • Don’t bend over a desk or table to read or look at something that’s on the surface. Instead, bring the material level with your eye. If it’s something you cannot move, sit down and take a look at it.
  • Get an ergonomic chair that supports your back.
  • Use a chair that has armrests and a straight back.
  • Rest your feet completely on the floor when seated, with your knees slightly above the level of your thighs.
  • Don’t sit in the same position for periods longer than 20 or 30 minutes. Get up, take a small walk, and then return to your desk.
  • Remove bulky objects from your back pockets before you sit down.
  • If you’re lying down, it’s best to curl up on your side with a pillow between your knees. If you’re lying on your back, use a pillow under your knees, and if on your stomach, use a small pillow under your abdomen.
  • Use a mattress that supports your back, preferably something that’s not too soft.
  • When bending to pick up objects, it’s best to bend at the knees rather than at the back. This way, the strain is on your thighs and not on your back.
  • Carry heavy objects close to your chest.
  • If you’re carrying a heavy object in one hand, switch hands often.
  • Adjust your car seat so that you’re comfortable reaching the wheel, the accelerator, the clutch and the brakes without having to stretch.
  • Don’t wear footwear with high heels
  • Don’t cradle the phone between your ear and shoulder when making and receiving calls
  • Don’t hold your head too high or look down all the time.
  • Don’t slouch in your chair or slide forward.

This article is contributed by Sarah Scrafford. She invites you to your questions, comments, and freelancing job inquiries at her e-mail address:

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Magritte with Rose

Posted by Janet on February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine’s Day from “Revealed”


Art by Rene Magritte
(rose added 2/14/09)

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“Bones” Portrayal of Medical Illustrators

Posted by Janet on October 1, 2008

Any medical illustrator who watches Bones may have noticed that they haven’t exactly portrayed Angela’s character correctly as a medical illustrator who works at the Jeffersonian. Quite frankly, I thought the portrayal of her job was extremely one-dimensional. In past seasons, they’ll show a body lying in lab space, and a few seconds later Angela would walk out of her work space with a complete drawing of the victim’s face. How does she do that when the skull was lying in lab the whole time? There were also times when she would walk in, see the body, and mentally reconstruct the face in her mind from this half-decayed body, without making any measurements whatsoever. It’s really amazing. I wish I had skills like that.

Well, I’m pleased to say that this season there’s been improvements on that front. One of the earlier episodes this season actually showed her using a software to superimpose a photo of the victim over a photo of the dead body, and she actually said that she was using anatomical landmarks to figure things out. In today’s episode, she sketches from a clay model with pieces of skull fragments on it and talked about the difficulty of reconstructing the face with missing skull fragments. Realism. I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more of that.

Now that the show is working to show a more realistic side of Angela’s work, maybe they’ll start giving her a better understanding of science. After all, she’s not “just” an artist, like she often says in the show. She’s a medical artist 😉

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Being a Grad Student…

Posted by Janet on September 16, 2008

You may be wondering what it’s like to be a medical illustrator. I can’t answer that because 1. all medical illustrators are different, and 2. I have not yet worked as a medical illustrator. However, as a grad student in a medical illustration program, I have to say that it’s not that different from being any grad student. The elements are the same–classes and exams, research, and lots of readings. The main difference is that you are expected to be good in BOTH art and science. You’ll never hear “will you be grading on the quality of the drawings?” like you’ll hear in some bio and math classes, when you have to draw under the microscope or plot functions. You also won’t hear things like “I’m good at art but I’m not smart enough to handle science classes” (I heard that one a lot when I was in high school and undergrad) because everyone thinks you’re smart and if you don’t have the mentality to handle it, maybe you shouldn’t be here.

Because we’re expected to be good at a broader spectrum of subjects, I tend to think that we have to work harder to survive grad school. Whereas most grad students talk 9 credit hours and call it a full load, we easily take up to 16 hours. Multitasking becomes really important when we are juggling various tasks such as observing surgery in the OR, designing magazine covers, making storyboards, and studying for a physiology exam.

I needed to take a week off from blogging and just let my mind cool off. Why are we here? Are all grad students the same? This question may be best answered by Jorge Cham, author of PHD comics–a comic about grad students which I read religiously. I do think that deep down, all grad students are connected by the endless tunnel of works, the “why am I here? am I doing the right thing?” mid-grad-life crisis, and of course, the question of “will I ever graduate?”

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Posted by Janet on September 8, 2008

Hi everyone who reads my blog,
Sorry I’m a little busy this week, but I’ll be posting some things soon about a new animation project I’m working on. It’ll be my very first animation and I’m excited. Have a nice week!


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My Mom’s Blog

Posted by Janet on August 28, 2008

For those of you who read Chinese, my mom is a natural science writer in Taiwan. For about ten years since the early 90s, she published short articles in Taiwanese newspapers and eventually the collections of these articles in books. She finds her inspirations in nature through family trips we take to state and national parks, or even local botanical gardens.

She is reposting some of her previously published articles in the blog (I am still helping her get into the world of blogging, so we’re not sure how often she’ll be updating it.)

Her signature style combines a literary style with facts and photos, so the readers feel like they’re reading an article rather than a passage from an encyclopedia. If you don’t read Chinese, you can still visit the blog to see photos from nature.

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That Legendary Notebook

Posted by Janet on August 21, 2008

Yes. That one. Moleskine.

Honestly I don’t understand the hype around this notebook. After all it’s bound paper. Functionally it’s the same as any paper you write on. I personally prefer loose paper so I can rearrange the pages anyway.

I suppose Moleskine is so highly regarded among artists because what other brand of notebook devotes its pages to artists? It’s hard enough finding a normal blank page notebook, not to mention acid free pages that are ruled for musicians or have frames already drawn for storyboard.

This is probably why a blog is completely devoted to all things Moleskine. From accessories to storage to people’s stories and their sketch pages.

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The Jackalope

Posted by Janet on July 1, 2008

Just wondering, what’s all the fascination with this Durer Jacklaope I Photoshopped for April Fool’s Day? Lately it’s been getting more attention than the posts with actual content. It makes me think I should keep Photoshopping old masters’ works on a regular basis to bring new audience to my site…

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