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
Lexile: 1050L

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Late last spring, a student worked late into the night, and 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 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 of 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 "Atomic Size Matters" at her graduation last year. The book depicts cartoons of Berns wearing various costumes and 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, works as a chemist and 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.

Critical thinking challenge: How does humor aid understanding?

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Assigned 18 times

  • Calebe-OBr
    5/08/2015 - 01:52 p.m.

    I think that humor can aid understanding by making someone zone in because they like what they're reading. That's probably why everybody raised a total of $14,000. People want the humor, and they want to understand what she does in the lab. Some people understand things better in reading and seeing pictures. Sometimes I doodle when I'm bored, and I end up coming up with a story in my head, and write a short comic book. 1050L

  • Fionas-McC
    5/11/2015 - 02:51 p.m.

    Humor can aid understanding by making people realize different things than before, and make them feel like it is less of a pain. You will probably want to understand and explore the subject more if it is humorous.

  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    9/24/2015 - 09:58 p.m.

    I think making comic books for chemistry is a great way to help people understand what certain things are. This can help improve people's understanding and performance in chemistry so that they can pursue a career.
    Critical thinking challenge: How does humor aid understanding?
    Answer: Humor aids understanding because it helps people understand things better than boredom.

  • Steve0620-yyca
    4/06/2016 - 08:42 p.m.

    I think that it was great for Veronica Berns to create a doodle about her work about chemistry. She had to explain her work to her parents but drew it because she couldn't explain it well with words. Her family said that they had a history of drawing and sharing comic books. She hopes that other scientists will also find ways to illustrate their work. She had a fundraiser to pay for the printing of some books and made almost triple her goal.
    I think that humor can aid understanding because people have different ways of learning. I think that it can help if the people are a visual learner or the drawing is simpler than the actual text or work.

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