A Q&A session with Angela Gao @motionrabbit science comic author and illustrator of The Pipette Kids Coloring and Activity Book.
Tell me about yourself and your background.
I graduated with a degree in biological sciences about 3 years ago. My area of interest is in the invisible: molecular and microbiology. Currently, I have a day job in the science industry and I draw science comics on my own time after work.
When did you start drawing comics about science?
I was the kid glued to Saturday morning cartoons every week growing up so I ended up drawing my own cartoons and comics as a result. Being a really visual learner, I always doodled in my notes to help me remember the material instead of writing pages and pages of words. When I was
in college, those doodles transformed into a more sequential narrative that other people could also read and learn from.
What do you like most about science?
I love the wonder! When I learn about how tiny
little proteins and nucleic acids you can’t even see are working and moving every second of your life so that you can do everything from making coffee to running a marathon, I just kind of sit there in awe. Even one little mutation could change your life completely; that’s insane. Not only that, but we can even harness the power of these tiny little parts and use them for treatments to
disease and to create new technology. It’s wild to think about. We’ll never know everything but it’s so exciting to keep finding out news things.
Do you think comics are a good way to communicate science to the public? Why or why not?
Absolutely. Comics are in this unique place where they appeal to all ages. Unlike a textbook or a paper, people are not scared to pick them up and read on a whim. When you make an educational comic, people will be caught by the format and the colors and think, “oh, what’s this?” and before they know it, they’re learning something. Pretty sneaky, perfect for people who are intimidated by this world that often uses esoteric jargon to communicate.
Which comic are you most proud of and why?
The comic that drew about how life science research works is probably my favorite right now. It’s the first that I’ve done of such length and I think it accomplishes it purpose
I know that one day you plan to write comic books to get K-12 students interested in STEM. Can you tell me more about this?
There have been times when I’ve had strangers email me and say “wow I wish I had seen this comic while I was taking biology, maybe I would’ve been more interested in the class.”
Now I really love biology but I know a lot of my peers in high school hated it. “It’s too hard. The information’s too dense. The textbook is dry. I can’t understand what my teacher is talking about.” For me, it’s a huuuuge deal if a single comic can make someone like that to give biology a second look. When they do, they might find something that they actually love about it.
Maybe they’ll have the motivation to look into it further. Maybe they’ll even decide that they like it so much that they want to become a researcher in the future. If comic books about science could help support school curriculum and make topics easier to digest and more appealing, we could raise a whole generation of kids who leave school holding it in high regard. They would eventually be a generation of adults who have the power to influence science and health policy in a positive way.
Why do you think it’s important to engage
students with STEM?
Science and technology are paving the way to the future and so it’s important to have students engage with that. However, it’s not to say that other things such as art and music and writing aren’t as important.
For science comics, you need a solid understanding of science to
know what to present to a reader, but you need to have fluency in art and writing to be able to deliver that knowledge effectively. Science communication is an interdisciplinary field.
Therefore, it’s not so much that STEM (or STEAM)
education is important as something that student should learn, but it’s a way for them to really develop a taste and passion for the things that are shaping our world. That’s far more valuable than just being able to ace all the science
The Pipette Kids Coloring Book
The coloring book features a
– Brain Maze
– Color The Cell
– DNA Color-By-Numbers
– Connect The Dots
– Periodic Table Guessing Game
– Science Careers Crossword
– Biographies of Rachel Carson, Caroline Herschel, Rosalind Franklin, and Maria Merian
– Cut Out Scientist Dolls and Lab Safety Instructions