This really resonates with me. “The art of seeing the invisible.” That is how I see portraying microscopy images as an art form. Seeing something unknown to the naked human eye can always serve as a good conversation starter.

The art of seeing the invisible?
Isn’t everything first manifested in our imagination?
What can you manifest today?

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NeuroBead Logo

The end of a long weekend.  A time that was meant for rest, relaxation and family time.  The latter I got, the first two, not so much.  Finally a chance to sit down and reflect.  A chance to escape.  In August, we have moved into a building that has a Starbucks on the first floor.  I walk in and feel a sense of relief.  But I don’t drink coffee… or tea… I walk in and start looking for something worth buying.  In truth, all I want to buy is a little bit of peace.  

On Thursday, we spent the whole day at home, mostly cooking.  Not my favorite thing to do, but I didn’t mind it so much this time.   I think this was the first year that my older daughter actually provided more help than havoc.  She made a simple soup and an apple pie that grandparents enjoyed.  The day went well and we enjoyed the evening with my family. 

As I went to bed on Thursday, my mind suddenly started racing.  An idea was born.  It came out of nowhere.  It has been about a month since I have decided that NeuroBead needs an official logo and put it on my never ending to do list.  The task has been eating away at me, but I did not really know how I would like it to look. With all the tryptophan hitting my brain after our Thanksgiving dinner, I had a clear vision.  It was late though, and I made my best conscious effort not to forget it by morning.

On Friday morning, I woke up early, could not go back to sleep and decided to start working on the logo ASAP, before my daughters got up.  You can see it at the top of this page.  Let me explain.  While the concept of phrenology – a belief that character traits can be assigned to certain areas of the brain – has become obsolete, some elements of it remain.  Popular psychology often makes broad generalizations, where the left brain hemisphere is considered to be more rational, and the right hemisphere more creative.  These are loosely based on the existence of areas of the brain, such as Broca’s area (responsible for language) which are localized in one hemisphere and not the other.  Most functions though require involvement of both sides of the brain.  So with caveats of scientific accuracy aside, I decided to portray a coronal section of the brain, with my daily scientific life (Neuro) in one hemisphere and my creative side (Bead) in the other.  The key is that a structure called corpus callosum connects the two hemispheres, allowing the two sides of me to coexist.  I have symbolically connected them with a single green neuron, stemming from the O in “Neuro” as its nucleus.  The nucleus is colored blue , corresponding to a widely used DAPI stain that labels DNA and can be seen in the blue channel under a microscope.  The cell body, simplified dendrites, that receive the signals, and the long, slender axon that sends the signal to the creative side, are colored green, which is arguably the color of choice for staining cells.  

In an effort to dedicate some time to strengthen this connection in myself, I have continued to work on the red cell this weekend.  You can see the blue (DAPI – stained) nucleus inside the cell labeled with a red marker to visualize its cell body and processes.  This is the first cell I have made that is completely 3 dimensional and independent of the surface it will be attached to.  A so called 3D reconstruction.  Based on its shape and morphology I think it will be an astrocyte.  It is almost ready for prime time!

Please sign up for NeuroBead Exclusive to see more behind the scenes work and a chance to order this artwork before I officially post it on my Etsy Shop.  Also, please follow me on Instagram.

I would also love to hear what you think of the new logo.  Please leave a comment or reach out to me directly.

Daily Prompt: Anticipation

Morning Glory

This week has been a little slow and not particularly productive at work.  Plus my daughter got sick and had to be picked up from school in the middle of the day.  I always feel the weight of juggling work and family life and strive to find some time to be myself.  Artwork brings me peace of mind.

So I decided to take the lemons life gave me and make lemonade.  On Thursday evening, my sick daughter was taken to her grandparents and my husband had to work late.  After coming home and hanging out a bit with my younger daughter, I put her to bed and decided to dedicate some time to myself.  For years I have been carrying a box of unfinished beading projects from one apartment to the next.  I used to make a lot of french beaded flowers in the past.  So I picked up the box of my budding projects and found three beautiful flowers of morning glory that I have made ages ago.


They looked so bright and fresh and inviting.  Like something that could instantly lift up my mood.  They just needed a little more TLC to be ready for prime time.  They also offered a sense of a short, simple path to completion, which is so rare to come by in my daily life as a scientist.  I needed that sense of fast (though not instant) gratification.

Two evenings later the project was complete.  I connected the three separate flowers into a single branch, finished off the stem and added a couple leaves.  I had a frame that has also been lying around, waiting for the next project to be completed.  At first I wanted to put the floral branch on a completely black background of fabric, but then got inspired by one of my recent projects with neurons.  So just like the cyan hippocampal neuron I wrote about, this Morning Glory refused to be restrained by the limits of its frame.  Its flowers and stem reach beyond the enforced boundaries.  This concept speaks to the limitless beauty of nature, whether it is seen on the street or through a microscope.


The item is now available at my Etsy Shop!   Come check it out and sign up for NeuroBead Exclusive!

via Primp

I, me, myself

This is one of the reasons I make time for artwork. During childhood it was a huge part of my life, and now it allows me to reclaim a part of myself back. It allows me to be in the moment and feel like I belong to myself. It gives me a sense of flow.

Neal's Epiphany

I wonder if our lives at any given point of time belong to us. Not in theory. Really BELONG to us. To do with as we wish, when and how we wish. A child’s clothes, food, time and everything else is decided by parents. When you grow older and meet someone, you don’t do half the things you want to so as not to create discord. Later on, as you get married, you have others to think about…families, society…every decision has variables attached and the outcome is usually far from what you had imagined.

I wonder how it will feel if you were to wake up one morning and do all the things you want…do as you desire, not think of what should be done and what shouldn’t. An extremely selfish thought…but luring nevertheless.

The world would of course go into chaos. Probably what keeps us going in a line…

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The spectrum of notebook keeping in science and in life – Part II

A little over a week ago, I wrote about making the most of my mini-vacation.  The whole concept of “organized relaxation” is quite ridiculous, but probably common in a lot of our lives. We are so pressed for time, that when we get a chance to breathe, we find ourselves thinking about the best way to take that breath.  It mostly leads to more stress.

While on vacation, as I was going through my ever growing “to read” list, I came across the concept of bullet journaling, which I have referenced in my previous post.   Not long before starting my blog a few months ago, I felt a strong urge to revisit some form of personal notebook keeping, preferably in digital form.  I downloaded an app, and started recording some details of daily life, and how they made me feel.  It gave me some sense of control.  I guess there is something laughable about an adult keeping a diary, but I felt like I needed to find a way to keep track of my life.  Pretty soon after that I began my blog.

But here is the issue.  A personal journal versus a publicly published blog are the polar opposite ends of the privacy spectrum.  Writing for a blog puts on constraints that would be absent if the person were just writing for themselves.  Not only does it need to be interesting for others to read, but the writer also needs to be very cognizant of how much to share.  All while remaining authentic and true to themselves.  There is a fine line between being genuine and unintentionally putting on one of the masks we use in our daily lives.  For me, this also echoes the process of lab notebook keeping, where legal issues prevent people from giving themselves the freedom of thought and creative expression on paper.

While writing is typically thought of as a creative process, scientific writing enforces strict constraints on what you can put down on paper.  Not only do you need to follow a certain framework, you also need to stay super vigilant about not letting a drop of you personal opinion seep through the cracks.  It is a tug of war between sticking to facts that are already known and trying to push the envelope with some novel ideas.

Published work may have its own rules, but in the context of notebook keeping, a bullet journal appears to give people the best of both worlds.  It is a place for free expression and organized information, that does not need to follow any particular style.  It is supposed to be an abridged version of our stream of consciousness.  Yet, if you look up bullet journaling, what do you find?  Mostly, people posting the types of super organized and super neat multicolor pages they make with special banners to top them off.  It appears that no matter how private a practice might be, people cannot resist the urge to impress others.

Art is a way of self expression that comes from within, but once formulated is meant to impress and please the eyes of others.   The key is to remain true to one’s own vision.