I get asked often why I decided to switch careers from graphic design to scientific research. It has always been a good conversation starter because it is relatively uncommon (for good reason, I think) and it gives those I meet more to talk about than the normal discussion about recent journal articles and what I’m currently working on. However, the reason for my career change always requires a complex answer from me. Though I feel like I definitely made the right choice by switching to science, have conflicting feelings about my choices because I do regret that I don’t often get to use my design skills in the same way as I used to, or be a part of the design community that was so formative to my identity as my first experience out of college. These conflicting feelings also stem from the idea that eventually I would love to incorporate my scientific research skills with my design skills. But, so far, I am still on my journey to realizing that dream (and even understanding what that could mean as a job)! My design career development was a formative part of my early life, and so it sometimes feels like by starting over in science I have abandoned those early years. In contrast, I am much happier now with my new scientific career, but I still feel relatively “young” because I just finished my Ph.D. Here I’ve written the main story of how this transition occurred, and some of the experiences I’ve had along the way.
Anytime I am working in a research laboratory environment there is never enough time to get everything I want done, and this includes making figures for papers and presentations (both internal and external). However, images in presentations and papers are powerful ways to create context and explain experiments and ideas, so I need to spend some time making the images look good to represent my process and product.
Below I explain the steps I take to clean up images using this example photo of reflectors I took with my Android phone. The reflectors are set on a white-ish background lit with 2 diffuse lights from either side of the table, but the image so far is still sub-par. Taking photos with a white background is useful for later color correction when I am in a hurry.
Because I have been doing image editing for so long, processing one image in this way can take me less than five minutes. So, with some practice, I think this method is super useful for those wishing to pump through multiple images to help get them into more impressive shape for public viewing!
Let me first say that as a scientist with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) I have both benefitted from my OCD thought patterns and been harmed by the effects of OCD. The benefit of having an obsessive thought-driven mind is that sometimes for me the obsessive thought about how to solve a scientific problem can lead to a solution faster because I am thinking about it all the time. But, letting my brain steep too long in rumination also creates similar brain pathways for me to obsess about negative thoughts to the point where they can seriously disrupt my life. Both are part of my thinking processes. However, I have learned to manage my OCD with various strategies that keep me for the most part in good mental health.