Student made comic book to explain complex chemistry
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.

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Assigned 153 times

  • matthewpop-Sch
    5/11/2015 - 06:34 p.m.

    I can't beleive that an attempt at teaching her family chemistry turned into a comic that has raised over $14,000 and is turning into a book.

  • SofiaA-4
    5/11/2015 - 07:17 p.m.

    It is often hard to explain things to others who are not familiar with them. This statement holds true for Veronica Berns, who, about a year ago, was working on her Ph. D. in Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. When she began to develop her thesis on quasicrystals, a subset of crystals that diverge from the usual structural characteristics of crystals, she found that they would be easier to explain in illustrations. So she created a comic book that can be understood by scientists and children alike. Berns's professor, Danny Fredrickson, said that she was the only one of his students who has ever presented their thesis in an artistic way. Berns now lives in Chicago as a chemist and continues to create more books.

    I, like Berns, know many things that are often hard to explain because hardly anybody else I know has studied or been exposed to them. This article has showed me that if I do want to explain something, I should do it in a way that appeals to the person or people I am going to be talking to.

  • MicahL-Kut
    5/11/2015 - 11:11 p.m.

    I find that this is super cool that she had found a way to tell her friends and family about what she is doing with out confusing them. I also think that this is a great way to get kids attention if they don't really get chemistry.

  • Maxc-Pav
    5/12/2015 - 10:02 a.m.

    That is a really cool way to show scientific research! If I could I would buy one of those comics, it sounds like a really cool comic book.

  • jacksop-Sch
    5/12/2015 - 11:09 a.m.

    I really want that book because I love comic books and I think it's a good idea to add fun stuff in science not that it's not fun already.

  • josiek-Sch
    5/12/2015 - 11:13 a.m.

    I think it's cool she is making a book about chemistry cause most people in the world aren't that interested in chemistry cause it's a hard subject and it's not as interesting as like reading a book about super heroes or cupcakes it's so cool that now someone is finally making a chemistry comic book!

  • keertir-Sch
    5/12/2015 - 11:14 a.m.

    I would love to read this comic books more people should make books about chemistry . They're are not a lot of books about chemistry

  • sadias-Sch
    5/12/2015 - 11:15 a.m.

    I like comic books. I approve her use of her knowledge and comic booking skills to make hard science stuff fun for kids. Though, I thought she was going to make more books. Or maybe?

  • chrisbop-Sch
    5/12/2015 - 11:17 a.m.

    I think this book is a great Idea so that younger students and kids can learn about cemetery in a fun and funny book. This student did a great job and raised money in a good way.

  • kennedyh-Sch
    5/12/2015 - 11:27 a.m.

    I think that it is so creative that someone would take the time to make chemistry into comic. I think it is cool and now kids may like chemistry now.

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