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
Lexile

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.

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COMMENTS (72)
  • Hayleyg-OBr
    5/08/2015 - 01:39 p.m.

    I want to make my own book because I would sell it to the schools in Ketchikan and Metlaketla Alaska. I can't believe that she is saving up to 14,000 dollrs and she already has 5,965 dollars I think thst is cool and awesome. Veronica Burns is a really good person and she made a book for kids and adults to explain contex chemistry. I think that other scientests are going to buy her books becasue theyre good for science. 900L

  • williamgwmsteam1
    5/08/2015 - 02:18 p.m.

    I would love to see and read this comic! I think more chemists should do this, it would make students that hate the subject want to read and know more about chemistry.

  • nyiatanaewmsteam1
    5/08/2015 - 02:40 p.m.

    I think that it is good for someone to make a comic book to explain chemistry to some people who do not understand the form of chemistry.

  • SebastianH-1
    5/08/2015 - 07:31 p.m.

    The chemist Veronica Berns made a comic book to describe advanced chemistry. In her earlier attempts to just ended up explain the chemistry subject in a simple way to her friends and family she usually ended up just confusing them. The comic was successful on Kickstarter and is something Berns is proud of. This article was short and had a unique topic that had quotes from the chemist which made the article much more interesting.

  • GabiD-1
    5/08/2015 - 10:29 p.m.

    Veronica Berns is a chemistry student who decided to make a comic book about chemistry. She came up with the idea one night.Then she began doodling and attempting to make the extremely complicated process of chemistry easier to understand. I think it is cool because a lot of kids have trouble understanding chemistry.

  • MaggieM-3
    5/09/2015 - 11:31 p.m.

    Veronica Burns, a twenty-eight year old chemistry student, turned her thesis into a comic book that explains the complex bonds. She attended the University of Wisconsin and her professor said that she was student to make a creative thesis. The book is full of crude illustrations that give it a personal feel, as if Burns was explaining the compounds to you on purpose. The subject of the book is quasicrystals, a unusual subset of crystals. Veronica even printed a small batch of the books from funds she got on Kickstarter. She wanted to raise $5,965. According to the website she exceeded that quite a bit by raising more than $14,000. Now she lives in Chicago and works as a chemist, putting her well deserved degree to use.

    I think that it is really cool someone had the creative talent to try and make chemistry more fun and understandable. I completely agree with Burns professor when he said that things are not worth doing if you can't understand them.

  • AustinC-Kut
    5/10/2015 - 04:27 p.m.

    This was a very interesting article because I have never seen or heard of someone who can explain subjects in an artistic and creative way. To show her parents and peers what she learned, Jody drew pictures. In the article she said she was attempting to raise $5,965 to help fund her comic book and she raised $14,000 dollars according to her website. It's amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it!

  • DominicP-Kut
    5/10/2015 - 05:37 p.m.

    I think that this comic is a very nice take on something that almost NOBODY understands.It allows people to understand what is very hard to understand. So good job! =D

  • CarmenP-Kut
    5/10/2015 - 05:52 p.m.

    That is so cool! i would want to do this! its like a little study guide for her when her tests get harder. I think more people should do this because some people learn better when they write things down, so doing this they could write down what ever they have trouble with in school and add there own story!

  • TannerD-Kut
    5/10/2015 - 09:16 p.m.

    I think it is good that someone put hard to learn stuff in a comic book to teach because something's in class I get board but if I had a comic to look at while learning at the same time thr would be realy awesome for me!

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