How science art helps us understand microbiology: Dr. Lizah van der Aart

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We talk about microbes on this podcast. But let’s face it. If you don’t see a picture of them, it’s difficult to imagine what’s going on in the microbial world. That’s why microscopy is so helpful. It allows us to actually see the invisible communities of bacteria, fungi, algae, viruses, archaea, and protozoa.

But sometimes, art does a better job of representing the microbial world and all of its intricacies and nuances. So that’s what my guest on the podcast, Dr. Lizah van der Aart, does. They create microbiology art as a professional science artist and illustrator, helping others express difficult concepts that need descriptive visuals.

Another thing I love that Lizah does is create microbiology art that anyone can purchase from their online shops, things like enamel pins of bacteria that we talk about in the episode, tote bags, stickers, and coffee mugs. These different products they sell allow us to outwardly express our love, passion, and enthusiasm for microbes.

If you’ve ever wanted to meet a science artist, here’s your chance. We discuss Lizah’s background as a PhD microbiologist and how they decided to combine their passion for microbiology with art to create a career. Lizah works with different clients on science illustration projects, and I’ve actually had the pleasure of working with them on a project of my own. So, we discuss the process of working together to turn my idea of what I thought would be the best Winogradsky column color guide into a real thing. It ended up looking amazing and is a truly beautiful representation of the colorful patterns you might see in your column. Ya gotta see it.

In this episode, you will learn about…

  • How bioluminescent bacteria drew Lizah to microbiology
  • What makes the soil bacteria Streptomyces so delightful?
  • An example of the difficulties in categorizing bacteria: Thermoactinomycetes
  • Deciding to start a science illustration business
  • How Lizah helps us visualize complex microbiology concepts
  • How many bacterial cells can fit in a tote bag?
  • Our collaboration on the Joyful Winogradsky Column Guide
  • Microbes in our daily lives: the outliers in the microbial world
  • At-home microbiology activity: creating microbial shapes





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