Two important skills for scientists in developmental and cell biology, as well as in fields such as neurobiology, histology and pathology, are: 1) observation of features and details in microscopic images of cells, and 2) quantification of cellular features observed in microscopic images. However, current training in developmental and cell biology does not emphasize observation and quantitative analysis of microscopic images, and it is unclear how best to teach students these skills. Here, we describe our experiences applying visual artistic approaches to instruct undergraduate and graduate students in how to observe and analyze cellular forms in microscopic images. At Loyola Marymount University, we used representational drawing to enhance undergraduate students’ skills in observation of fine cellular details in microscopic images of embryos. At Touro University California, we paired abstract paintings with microscopic images of tissues to engage masters and medical students in learning quantitative measurements of cellular features. Overall, this paper explains specific ways in which visual arts can be used to instruct and engage students in observation and analysis of microscopic images of cells and tissues.

Author/Artist Bio

Max Ezin is an assistant professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where she teaches and does research. Her field of study is Developmental Biology, with a focus on the development of the heart. Tamira Elul, PhD, is a scientist and educator. She is an Associate Professor at Touro University, California where she teaches medical students histology and directs an experimental and theoretical research program focusing on neuronal morphogenesis. In recent years, she has used art and artistic tools to disseminate morphogenesis to a broader community.



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