Our latest SciArt profile features Arpan Parichha, a PhD student in Shubha Tole’s lab in Mumbai. Arpan told us about his passion for using art to address important issues in science, such as gender equity, as well as communicating science to the general public.
Where are you originally from and what do you work on now?
I was born in Kolkata, India, and I now work at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai as a grad student in the lab of Prof. Shubha Tole. My thesis work involves understanding the role of canonical Wnt signaling in the developing telencephalic midline. I am examining how Wnt signaling dynamics are essential for several dorsal midline brain structures like choroid plexus, Cajal Retzius cells (CR cells), and fimbrial scaffold.
Were you always going to be a scientist?
Not at all. I always wanted to become a doctor and had zero clue about the life of a scientist. The society where I grew up imposed two choices for my career: becoming a doctor or an engineer. During my college days, I had an opportunity to live the life of a grad student for two months (when I was a summer research fellow), and it was when I decided to explore the world of academia. I found the life of a researcher to be cool and much more interesting than the conventional 9-to-5 job.
And what about art – have you always enjoyed it?
I have been passionate about art since childhood and joined an art school when I was eight years old. I am formally trained in landscape art and abstract oil painting. Now, I want to fuse abstract art with science to create something insightful.
What or who are your most important artistic influences?
I was deeply influenced by the scientifically precise artworks of David Goodsell. These paintings are mesmerizing and capture the intricate details of molecular and cellular processes inside the cell.
How do you make your art?
I use all kinds of media (digital, pencil sketch, oil, and watercolor) to create my artwork. These days I use an iPad to create my digital drawings. Sometimes I combine these two styles to create a hybrid approach. I try to make my abstract artwork in a way that it remains open to interpretation. Many of my paintings voice the importance of gender equality in science and the importance of women in STEM education.
I post my paintings and artwork on Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. Besides abstract art, I make animated videos (using vector graphics) on PowerPoint, which explain a biology concept or increase public awareness of research.
YouTube channel link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClpeLlEHyJOcPQPxXUwwomA
Instagram handle: @animatedbiologywitharpan
Twitter handle: @arpan_parichha
Does your art influence your science at all, or are they separate worlds?
During my college time, I was fascinated by microscopy. Notably, I perceive confocal microscopy images as artworks. Art is really an integral part of my science. The artistic mindset helps me conceptualize biological questions and design new experiments for my research. As a grad student, I always scribble in my notebook when I’m designing experiments or have exciting results. Putting down my thoughts as drawings really helps me to think like a scientist. I always find it easy to communicate my science by drawing models, cartoons, and flowcharts.
What are you thinking of working on next?
I want to promote science and concepts of biology using Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.
I have realized students and the young generation should be exposed to the fascinating life of scientists. Hence in many of my YouTube videos, I wish to highlight the person behind the science. Getting to know the scientists, along with their science, always gives that personal touch. After all, science is done by people for people. Unfortunately, the young generation is not as influenced by the life of a scientist compared to a Hollywood film star. Hence I strongly feel that science needs to be popularized in a creative way that attracts young minds.
I have started posting a 1-minute video summary on YouTube of papers I read or hear in a journal club. These one-minute videos give the audience a flavor of exciting discoveries by scientists worldwide. For example, I explained how a scientist could study the neanderthal brain in a dish in a “YouTube Short” video. Moreover, I aim to spread awareness about public health by using animated YouTube videos. For example, in a recent video, I explained how alcohol can affect our brain and why we should say no to alcohol
In the future, I wish to make podcasts on my youtube channel where I can ask scientists about their life and how they got interested in science.
Thanks to Arpan and all the other SciArtists we have featured so far. We’re looking for new people to feature in this series – whatever kind of art you do, from sculpture to embroidery to music to drawing, if you want to share it with the community just email email@example.com (nominations are also welcome!)