Project Description

Dr Kate Patterson


Visual Science Communicator, Biomedical Animator
Garvan Institute of Medical Research

Experimentation at the interface of art and science: narrative, cognitive embodiment and alternative visual language

Advanced bio-data visualisation

Thursday 7 July 2016

Kate Patterson uses visual language to transform complex scientific concepts for a general audience. Kate is a trans-disciplinary researcher working at the interface of art and science, bringing together the historically segregated fields of technology, art and science in order to contribute new work and knowledge to the field of visual science communication. Science can be complex, dynamic and invisible to the naked eye. Kate makes this accessible by a broad audience through the combined use of hand drawn illustration, computer generated imagery and 3D animation. Kate transforms raw scientific data using the tools of visual arts and cinematography into a form that can be used for education, communication and awareness purposes.

Kate first practiced as a veterinarian, but with a particular interest in cancer biology undertook a PhD at The Garvan Institute of Medical Research, which was awarded in 2009. During this time she developed her interest in science communication, using visualization. Following her PhD Kate worked as a scientific writer and illustrator and in 2012 she was awarded an Inspiring Australia government grant to produce compelling, 3D animations on cancer and epigenetics. Kate is a Lab Research Fellow in the 3D visualisation and aesthetics laboratory at UNSW Art and Design and a visual science communicator in the Epigenetics Research Group at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. She writes the “Drawing from science” column for The Conversation and works freelance as a writer, scientific illustrator and animator trading as MediPics and Prose.

Biodata visualisation is a term used to describe a diverse field that encompasses data visualisation, science visualisation for education, visual science storytelling and expressive artwork inspired by science. Scientific visualisation has a long history, however, the combined evolution of technology and scientific knowledge present modern visualisation and communication challenges.

In biomedical research, visuals are a powerful tool for effective communication and when combined with narrative, can help to contextualise biomedical research, to distill complex information, to spark emotion and to cause behaviour change. Biomedical animation in particular plays a key role, transforming and contextualizing raw scientific data for varied audiences by blending storytelling with art and design.   Biomedical animation is characterised by high scientific integrity, preservation of data and blending of multiresolution data from different sources. There is a balance between accuracy and artistry, which is achieved with careful transformation of objective scientific data and orchestrated design choices.

This talk will focus on case studies where storytelling and art combine to communicate concepts in genomics and epigenetics. Communication of genomics and epigenetics poses specific challenges, because these fields of research are complex, and the biological systems are dynamic and stochastic in nature. There are multiple levels of control and the molecular machines associated with these biological systems are invisible – it all happens inside our cells at a scale smaller than the wavelength of light.