Felice Frankel is a research scientist at the MIT Center for Materials Science and Engineering. She is also an award-winning photographer who has translated her scientific and photography backgrounds into workshops for graduate students. The goal is for the students to learn how to capture engaging and appealing photos of their research work and create powerful visuals that speak to scientists, students and laymen alike.
With a few tweaks, while maintaining the integrity of the science, an image can become sharper and more impactful. Through her consulting and classes, her consistent goal is trying to get scientists and future scientists to take a step back and re-imagine what’s in front of them.
She has also written a book, Visual Strategies — A Practical Guide to Graphics for Scientists and Engineers (Yale University Press, 2012. Coauthored with Angela H. DePace.)
And, if you are a high-school science teacher trying to get your students excited in the field, one educational project that may interest you and your students is Picturing to Learn. The idea is to get students to make drawings representing their understanding of basic concepts from their classes and to explain them to other high-school students. The exercise helps students clarify their understanding while giving teachers a clear sense of student misconceptions — and of exactly which concepts require further explanation.
Picturing to Learn revealed scientific misconceptions and what information wasn’t getting through. It became a valuable tool for faculty, says Frankel, noting that Donald Sadoway, professor of materials chemistry, changed his lectures, based on a certain error that kept appearing.