I’ve been spending a bit of time drawing cells in culture using the light microscope recently. These quick 5-minute sketches are really a pleasure to make – shapes and relationships unfurl on the paper as my eye explores the surface of the cells. They are transparent, and discernible only by gentle shadows produced in the regions where light is absorbed. The challenge will be deciding how to render the images.
This is one of my more recent drawings in my science notebook. It is MCF-7 cells, a breast cancer line which are cuboidal in shape. As I began to copy this sketch into my artist’s sketchbook, I noticed a cell that looks like a ghost. Try as I might I can’t not see it now! I was reminded of the image below that I captured using fluorescence microscopy a few years ago. It’s like seeing faces in clouds; once your mind has pinned something recognisable onto an otherwise abstract form, it’s impossible to let it go.
We’re fairly used to seeing fluorescent images of cells (the ones above are cardiac fibroblasts stained with an antibody which recognises one of the cytoskeletal proteins, vimentin), but light microscope images are rarely explored – to me they are so much more beautiful and ethereal. I had an idea that these cell drawings might be used to inform a fabric design or maybe wallpaper – if I could only decide how to render them. I thought one step further – what could I use the materials to cover? Notebooks!
Hah! I could design a notebook range that could engage the public with science and at the same time raise money for a medical charity. It could be sold in science museum and science galleries across the land! It would be amazing! The key item would be the laboratory notebook – an A4 hardback book that endures all kinds of spillages so that exact details of an experiment can be carefully recorded for future reference. Why does everyone use blue books? Perhaps they don’t have enough choice? I could give them choice! I could revolutionise the face of lab books everywhere!
Two days ago I noticed my lab book had only a few blank pages left. I had intended to buy some more clear plastic punched pockets from Office Depot. My previous lab book was from Office Depot so I found the code inside the back cover, typed it in and added one to a basket already containing the punched pockets. The book cost £1.01 with the university’s discount plus 20% VAT. Free delivery and the book arrived the next day.
I think it’s clear why I will not revolutionise the face of lab books.