Please tell us about yourself
Biostandups aims to establish awareness on women empowerment in science. Knowledge comes from experience; hence we decided to bring the experience and knowledge from great women scientists who are representing our nation globally. In this regards, this month we brought motivation and inspiration from future graduate Ipsa Jain, Freelancer illustrator. Editor, club Sciwri Sci comm. section. She worked on cancer cell migration and cancer drug resistance during Ph.D. She moved out of academic research and her current interest is in bringing science to the masses using visuals. Ipsa is one true motivation for all the women who wish to see future in SciArt. Biostandups honours Ipsa as “SHERO”.
BS: When did this bug for fusing science and art bite you? How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career?
IJ: I always liked to tinker with inks and paints. It was in 2013 that a close friend asked me to design cover for Journal for IISc which was featuring his research as the theme of the edition. While the cover was not my best work, it was a beginning. There was lull in the science-art activity for some time due to work pressure. Towards the end of my Ph.D. tenure I started doing sketching and doodling to relieve stress. Due to encouraging feedback from colleagues and friends, I started sharing my work online and things took off from there.
BS: What did you study?
I have done my graduation and post graduation from university of delhi in Zoology. I have always been interested in science. After that I came to IISc for a Ph.D (Molecular Biology/Oncology) . I have acquired skills in visual arts using Coursera and sSkillshare and Chitra Kala Parisath. I worked on cancer cell migration and cancer drug resistance during my Ph.D. I am moving out of academic research. My current interest is in bringing science to the masses using visuals.
BS: Tell us your inspiration behind mixing science with art?
IJ: I would not say that my idea is original. In fact, all art is borrowed art. I worship the blog Brain Pickings written by Maria Papova. She reviews books and shares their beauty on the blog. There I came across many science-inspired illustration books. That struck a chord with me and I started thinking and working in the same direction.
BS: Tell us about ipsawonders in more detail?
IJ: I had been sketching, painting and doodling for some time. Ipsawonders seemed the natural culmination of it. A platform to share and now sell my work. There are a lot of artists who draw animals and plants. I wanted to share some bit of science with those paintings. Being a nerd, I always tell nerd stories about things I see around me, or listen to such stories. I wanted to share that with everyone.
Not to brag, but many science students have themselves told me that I make biology fun for them. It is these remarks that mean a lot me. I am encouraged to make more work and share the science bit.
BS: Share, when and what was your first fusion product of ipsawonders?
IJ: My first post was a pencil sketch of a cone I collected from a trip to Meghalaya. While my first product per se were the post cards I printed out of my artwork. I exhibited and sold those postecards at IISc UG fest Pravega this year. I got phenomenal response which was very encouraging.
BS: Which is the best science-art you made so far and why is it your best?
IJ: I like the composition I made from my pencil color drawing of carpenter bee. In general I like to create compositions with repeats and patterns. Why I like this one more is because of the memory association. The carpenter bee that I sketched was ‘rescued from being trampled upon’ by me and my friends in IISc campus. We photographed it and I used that as a reference to sketch it.
BS: Think Outside the Lab What do you like—or not—about science?
IJ: Science is wonderful, inside the lab, outside the lab. It is the tool to by which human curiosity and wonder can find its answers. What I don’t necessarily approve is that in the hurdle to be doctors and engineers and scientists, sometimes the compassion and joy of curiosity are compromised with. I think science teachers and science communicators are trying to make up for it.
BS: Do you have role model at whom you look up to from “Science” as well as “arts”?
IJ: Again, my answer has to be Maria Papova. She shares stories of science and of arts. She is my library, and my reference. I also have great respect for people like Joe Hanson (from Its okay to be smart series on PBS digital studio) who are sharing science in cools ways with the world. Since the last year, I have spoken to a lot of science-artists, Including Dr. Ina Schuppe Koistinen, Abhisheka Krishna Gopal, Anand Verma and their ideas continue to resonate in my head each day.
BS: Every story is different. What was your story?
IJ: Since I was in eighth standard, I knew I wanted to be a scientist. I remember going to NDRI, Karnal (place where I grew up) and looking at DNA in agorse gel on a trans UV illuminator. I was fascinated by micropipettes and sonicator and other cool things the scientists showed us on a trip during Indian science day. I knew then that that is what I want to do as career. I studied and studied and landed up in a Ph.D. It was during Ph.D. that I realized that a career in science is not just about the wonder and joy of learning the unknown and discovering the unknown, it comes with a baggage. While I understand the importance of sharing the research in a peer reviewed journal, I don’t see the need for it to direct the way we work. Most of the research is very molecule centric, data oriented, and very often, biased by hypothesis. This seemed to rob me of the joy of doing science and experimentation.
During this process of growing dis interest in research, I found my recluse in art. I was reading and learning about art more, learning about the value of art more. Then I began painting more and more. And that became the driving force of my activities. I am in same place since, hoping to grow from there.
BS: How do you want to help society with your creative arts?
IJ: I hope my endeavors help build a better society. I want to convey science and scientific approach to the world. We are unfortunately living in a time where ‘alternative facts’ are prevalent. It is on the shoulders of scientists and science communicators and educators to share the ‘truth’ with the society to undo the damage done by the ‘alternative facts’.
BS: This is a digital world and advancing very quickly. How unique is your approach to reach science enthusiast with arts and painting?
IJ: Why unique: it sorts of is a question that my audience should be answering. But I guess combination of art and science is my strong point. There are a lot more scientists than there are people who communicate science. I with training in one and interest in the other bridge all the gaps.
BS: What are you currently perusing and how did it accomplish your future career development?
IJ: I am currently creating content for my Sci-Art page, Ipsawonders. I am also the editor of Science communication section on ClubSciwri. Since my plan to is to make my contribution to field of science communication, it feels like I am on my way.
BS: Where do you want to see yourself in 5-10 years?
IJ: This is a question that I honestly hate answering the most. I feel exact places and ideas will keep evolving as I learn more and as more opportunities I come across. But I hope I will be working with Sciwri still and have made some more visual sci art material by then.
BS: Gender gap in Science. Your comment?
IJ: There is an interesting problem of gender gap in science. I feel that till M.Sc. level there is good number of female students who take up science (at least in urban/metro citites). A bottleneck happens there, where they go one to become science teachers, which is good and some move to non-science clerical and management jobs. I think such diversion after M.Sc. is not very gender specific. It is after Ph.D./post doc that the bottleneck is defined by gender. I think the onus of family care and raising kids still lie with women folk in our society. So, the pressure of raising a family and competing for a job position becomes difficult. From my personal observation, I have seen that a new male faculty vs. a female faculty recruit, the later has to go through much more hardship before reaching there. I feel that in the current generation of budding scientists (my peers), there are only a few men who are, sexist, so to speak. I don’t know if the system is cruel to women. But I think people are open to working with women scientists and I suppose, even hiring them.
BS: Top hurdles to address immediately to raise the bar for women to take up science & research as career?
IJ: At the level of policy making, I do not understand enough to comment. To the women, I can say that find partners who share the load of laundry to child care to cooking. And I think women should look out for one other like the ‘bros’ have done for centuries.
BS: Your comment on our start-up “Biostandups”?
IJ: It is a good start. I would like to see Bio standups grow and share more women centric stories. It will encourage young girls to take up science and be leaders later