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  • Carolina Hrejsa

BVIS 250 Life Science Visualization Techniques

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

Are you a student at University of Illinois at Chicago interested in taking BVIS 250 Life Science Visualization Techniques as an elective or part of the Life Science Visualization minor? This post will give you a little insight to the course and hopefully answer some questions.

What is BVIS 250? BVIS 250 is an introductory course focused on scientific visualization using digital media, including basic software strategies and knowledge of how to create images from conceptualization to final rendering.

Are there any prerequisites? BIOS 101. Many individuals who enter the profession of scientific visualization have both science AND art backgrounds. However, this is an introductory course; if your only art experience is doodling in the margins of your notebook, that's enough for me. We will draw from observation; so you will practice drawing proportionately, deciding which details to leave out, and squinting to see the overall value of tones (lights and darks).

I am a chemistry/music/health management/other major, should I take this course? BVIS 250 introduces a field of science plus art that many students are not aware of. If you are headed down a certain trajectory but are unsure of your final path, I welcome you to explore how scientific storytelling and visualization could expand your field of interests. Even surgeons benefit from right-brained creative approaches to master spatial acuity. Maybe as a musician, you will discover the field of composing and sound editing for medical animation. As a student with strengths in sciences with secondary skills in art, this course may provide you with insight on a field you haven't even considered. Or as an art student with an obsession with accuracy and realism, this may be the field you would excel in. This introductory course is open to all interested students.

What supplies do I need? Standard sketching supplies, paper, pencil, and ruler. The course has a computer lab component which is equipped with all the software and hardware you need. We use Adobe Create Cloud (Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator) and a WACOM Intuos Pro medium tablet. I supply other items such as butterflies, spreading boards, air dry clay, tracing paper, and graph paper.

Do I really need Adobe Photoshop? Can I complete the assignments in Procreate, Corel painter, Gimp, Affinity Designer, etc? Yes, you really do need Adobe CC software. You can succeed as a freelance artist using whatever software you feel comfortable with, however, this course relies heavily on digital techniques. I grade the assignments based on the student's ability to follow lab instruction. I open PSD and AI files and look for organization, execution, and problem-solving within the Adobe software.

What can I expect for assignments? Every class has a lecture component and a lab component. Weekly lab assignments are easy tasks meant to be completed during class time with instructor guidance. There are two major rendering assignments, which we will work on together step-by-step. Usually a step of the rendering assignment will be part of the weekly lab assignment, such as vectorizing a pencil sketch. The first rendering will be an entomological illustration from real life observation of a butterfly, each student will get their own butterfly. The second rendering is an anatomical illustration of the inner ear, we will illustrate from observation, but we also build a 3D model using air-drying clay to fully understand the 3D structure.

Is there a final exam? Yes, there is an online exam with multiple choice and T/F questions of details covered in both lecture and lab demos.

Hope to see you next semester!

Note: Fall 2021 and Spring 2022, the course has adapted to a hybrid course. That means on Mondays, the students are required to view pre-recorded lectures online. Lectures are expected to be viewed prior to computer lab. On Wednesdays, we meet live in the BVIS computer lab at the AHS building on west campus. The in-person aspect gives students free access to Adobe software and use of Wacom tablets and time in the computer lab to complete assignments with the instructor's help. A zoom link is available for any student that is feeling ill or unable to attend in-person that week. Online students should receive instructor consent to join from home prior to class. However, on certain days, such as critique days, attendance in-person is expected. We want to give full attention to each student presenting his/her work. I have a few personal Wacom tablets available to check out if assignments are not completed during open lab time together.

Note: Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, due to COVID-19, this course will be offered as online for the fall semester. Adobe CC software is available for students to purchase on their personal computers through the UIC webstore. WACOM tablets will be available for check-out, instructions will follow at the beginning of the semester. Any additional supplies, such as clay and insect specimens, will be mailed to your home address in the early weeks of the semester. You will be required to scan your sketches, if you do not have access to a scanner, a high resolution photograph will be acceptable.


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