Student made comic book to explain complex chemistry Veronica Berns holds the comic book "Atomic Size Matters" that she created to explain her doctoral chemistry thesis to her family (AP photos)
Student made comic book to explain complex chemistry

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Late last spring, a student worked late into the night. As she doodled, her chemistry thesis took on a life of its own, transforming into a comic book.

Veronica Berns, 28, was working on her Ph. D. in chemistry at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Berns said she long struggled to explain her work to her parents and friends. The self-described comic book fan said she began drafting her thesis on quasicrystals. They are a subset of crystals that diverge from the usual structural characteristics of crystals. Berns quickly concluded that she would be best able to describe the oddball compounds with illustrations.

"They're not very well-polished illustrations. That's on purpose," Berns said. "I wanted it to be like I'm explaining on the back of an envelope."

On many occasions, it was on the back of an envelope or on a napkin that she doodled sketches. She was able to illustrate the chemical bonds to better show her parents what she was working on in the lab. Jody Berns, Veronica's mother, said their family has a history of doodling and has shared comics for years.

Veronica Berns surprised her family with her comic book. It was called "Atomic Size Matters." She showed it off at her graduation last year. The book depicts cartoons of Berns wearing various costumes. It uses humor as well as simple comparisons to describe elaborate chemistry.

"We're just really proud that she can take something so complex and put it into a fun visual explanation that everyone can enjoy," Jody Berns said.

Veronica Berns' professor Danny Fredrickson said Berns was the first of his students to construct her thesis in an artistic way. He said often it is difficult for scientists to explain what they do with proper context.

"If it's worth doing, we should be able to explain it," Fredrickson said.

He said Berns managed to accomplish that.

Berns said she hopes other scientists will find ways to illustrate what they're doing in the lab. She now lives in Chicago and works as a chemist. Berns also writes a blog in which she uses comics to explain the work of Nobel Prize winning scientists.

Berns started a Kickstarter fundraising campaign on the Internet to finance printing a small batch of the books. She said she wanted to raise $5,965 to cover the costs of professional printing. The website says she has raised more than $14,000.

Assigned 152 times

  • luisl-Goo
    5/08/2015 - 08:51 a.m.

    Student made comic book to explain complex chemistry. The text states that late last spring, a student worked late into the night. The text also states that Veronica Berns, 28, was working on her Ph. D. in chemistry at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. The evidence from the text illustrates that Berns started a Kickstarter fundraising campaign on the Internet to finance printing a small batch of the books.

  • ellabwmsteam1
    5/08/2015 - 09:38 a.m.

    How was she able to explain science and the things she was doing in her lab in a comic? I can't believe that she just about tripled the amount of money she needed to print the comic.

  • RylandH-3
    5/08/2015 - 11:00 a.m.

    Veronica Berns is a 28 year old college student at the university of wisconsin. She is working to get a Ph.d in chemistry. She got the idea to make a fun comic book for kids in order to teach them more advanced chemistry. This is a really cool and interesting article because I think that that is a very innovative way to teach more advanced subjects to young kids.

  • christianhv
    5/08/2015 - 11:02 a.m.

    It is AWSOME how you can make a comic book about chemistry! I want to read that book! Veronica Berns is a genius. Why hasn't anyone though of that?

  • benjif-2
    5/08/2015 - 11:06 a.m.

    In this article it tells about a student that's a girl who one night made a whole comic book explaining about chemistry. She is now famous for making this comic book because it was so well written and it was a good book. This book can help kids in chemistry in the future and I think that cool.

  • Valorg
    5/08/2015 - 11:37 a.m.

    Veronica Berns is a chemistry student who decided her master thesis is going to be a children's book, she came up with the idea one faithful night and since then she began doodling and attempting to simplify the extremely complicated process of chemistry. She started a fundraiser on kickstarter to fund a print version of her book.

  • nikolasrwmsteam1
    5/08/2015 - 12:22 p.m.

    I wonder how the comic was on the inside. It would be cool to see some of the humor because I like jokes and a relatively funny guy.

  • ellagwmsteam1
    5/08/2015 - 12:26 p.m.

    I think that it is cool that a person that likes science wrote a book about difficult chemistry things and topics.Also I thought it was interesting that she made over 14,000 dollars from it too.

  • josephcwmsteam1
    5/08/2015 - 01:22 p.m.

    How much does this publishing cost? Also did she put words in there or just pictures?What is her audience? Was it for little kids, young adults or college students?

  • Wilfreda-OBr
    5/08/2015 - 01:37 p.m.

    I hope I can read her book some day, it sounds like a good one. I hope she gets $14,000 so she can get a blog in Chicago. That is awsome that she won the Nobel Prize. She must of had to work hard to win that. I wonder if she will make more books. 900L

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