17 June 2020

Weizmann PhD brings science to visual life in Australia

Science can be complex and often hard to ‘see’.  But a scientific animator’s skill can change that by bringing it all to life, not just for the scientist but the lay person too.

Weizmann PhD graduate, Ofir Shein Lumbroso, is in Australia, honing her skills to  become an important addition to the stable of global science illustrators as she goes through her year-long biomedical animator internship at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney.

Ofir completed her PhD at Weizmann about seven months ago and arrived in Australia in December 2019.  During her PhD Ofir completed a course in online illustration.  This fueled her interest and passion for scientific animation and helped her realise that ultimately, this was the area she wished to pursue for her career.  Her timing was right.

“It was during the last year of my last PhD that I saw the advertisement for the position at Garvan and I jumped at the chance.  After a few examinations and a long  application process, I was successful and here I am now,” she smiled.

Garvan and Weizmann have an extensive research cooperation program, including the Garvan-Weizmann  Centre for Cellular Genomics in Darlinghurst.

Ofir said that as a Garvan biomedical animator, a position funded by Sydney based Garvan-Weizmann partnership supporters Mr Bob Magid OAM and Mrs Ruth Magid, she is guided by Garvan’s talented molecular animator Dr Kate Patterson.

“I am learning from one of the best and it’s an exciting time. Once the year is over I hope to continue in a role as a scientific animator at the Weizmann Institute in Israel,” said Ofir.

One of her major objectives by the end of the year is not only to further develop her animation  skills, but to complete a scientific video about the evolution of the genetic mutation that causes autoimmune disease. This is based on the work of Dr Joanne Reed and Garvan’s Executive Director, Professor Chris Goodnow and there is a process to follow.

“The main goal of a scientific animator is to make science accessible while staying true to the most up to date research developments, which is a great challenge,” she said.

“Therefore a big part of the job is to conduct thorough literature reviews in the relevant fields before animating it.  After this, we then create a storyboard which contains the key messages about what to convey and visualise.

“It really follows the same principles as creating a television advertisement.  The whole process, finishes with an edit in post-production, a voice over added with music and relevant sound,” she explained.

The process is a thrill for Ofir as it covers many of her passions, including art.

“The most exciting thing for me is the fact that I can combine two passions in my life, science and art. Even in high school, I majored in science and art, so the combination always attracted me. I love the possibility of being able to communicate the magic of science through my animations,” she said.

What does Ofir think about her experience living and working at Garvan and in Australia?

“I’m having the best time at Garvan. In addition to the fun and welcoming working environment, I really appreciate the high professional standards and the quality of the research. It’s a great experience to be part of it,” she said.

“When it comes to Australia, it’s probably not the best year to visit, due to the bush fires at the beginning of the year and now COVID19.  But given the circumstances in the rest of the world caused by the pandemic  Australia is a really good place to be! And luckily for me, my husband and I visited Australia about five years ago and travelled the east coast for six weeks, which was amazing,” said Ofir.

“We had a great time back then and we are enjoying the beauty of Sydney during our current stay and hopefully we’ll manage to explore other parts of Australia as restrictions ease.”

Thankfully Ofir’s animation work allows her to work from home during COVID-19 and have a balanced work life.

You can see some of Ofir’s handiwork on the cover of the latest Garvan magazine Breakthrough.

Weizmann and Garvan have collaborated before on scientific illustrations, in the world of science education at schools.  Check out the story of when Weizmann researchers visited to share their teaching knowledge with Garvan’s science animators. https://weizmann.org.au/2019/01/teachers-taught-art-of-genomic-visualisation/

 

 

  • This illustration shows a complex of two types of antibodies (produced by B cells). In a healthy system, the antibodies recognize pathogens by attaching to them and therefore marking them to be destroyed by other players in our immune system. Autoimmunity happens when our "body" starts to attack itself, like in this case, where one antibody (IgM, in purple) is attached to another antibody (IgG, eggplant color).

  • This illustration created is of B cell (also known as B lymphocyte), it’s a type of white blood cell and has a very important role in our immune system. It identifies pathogens (like viruses and bacteria) and in a certain point, secrete antibodies to the system to fight the pathogens.

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