Erika Sarno DO/PhD candidate

I am a Biomedical Engineer, recently started to pursue Medical Art and Illustration. I taught myself Graphic design and figure drawing basics.

Get in touch: 

sarnoeri@msu.edu

Instagram:@_erika__s_

Twitter: @Erika_sarno

What was the inspiration behind your artwork?

This artwork was inspired by a technique used in my own PhD thesis project in which I assess the role of the immune system in mouse models of Major Depressive Disorder using in vivo calcium imaging.

This art piece breaks the barrier between the experiment and experimenter. As someone who has personally struggled with anxiety and depression, researching these disorders during my PhD training has been a unique juxtaposition of two different modes of knowing: subjective experience and the objective scientific method. At times it has been frustrating to maintain a third person perspective when discussing and presenting my research on this topic with which I have first hand experience. In this piece, I allow my imagination to break   the impersonal barrier held by mouse models of depression and assert my own depression in its place. I think this reveals that scientific pursuit, in all of its rigorous objectivity, is often driven by our own subjective experience of a dark unknown.
I also hope that this piece helps to  break the barrier of mental health stigma in academia, thus helping to create a more holistic and inclusive research environment for neurodiverse individuals and individuals struggling with mental health. Research can bring up many complex emotions which chronically unaddressed can result in mental illness. I believe removing stigma around mental health issues and promoting healthy channels of expression will facilitate well-being for grad students and researchers.

What do you see as the similarity between science and art? Why is science-art important in today’s society?

Science and art both serve as lenses with which to look at the world and view objective truth. Certain truths are not visible though one lens alone, and therefore, both are necessary to obtain some understanding of our complex world.
Previously, I thought the most important function of science-art was grant access to the general public to the scientific truths so often only appreciated by few scientists in academic circles. However, I now have come to appreciate that science art serves an equal and perhaps more cathartic function for those aforementioned scientists. I believe that blending art with science can be intensely healing for the scientific community as it allows expression and validation of the feelings, curiosities, and moral conflicts that science, by its nature, must leave unaddressed.