Science coloring book brings excitement and community to kids and adults alike

Art and science have come together in a collaboration from the lab of Ahna Skop, PhD. Skop is a professor of genetics and life science communications with tenure appointments in both SMPH and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and an affiliation with the Division of the Arts. She teamed up with two undergraduate students to publish a science coloring book aimed at building community and driving interest in science and genetics, with designs that appeal to children and adults alike.

Cover art of the Genetic Reflections: A Coloring Book
Cover art of Genetic Reflections: A Coloring Book

In 2018, Skop and artist Angela Johnson unveiled an art installation titled Genetic Reflections in the campus Biotechnology Center. But they were inspired to take things a step further. They wanted to share science art and inspiration with the broader community. Their answer was the recently published “Genetic Reflections: A Coloring Book.”

Skop recruited undergraduate students Elif Kurt and Caitlin Marks to put together the book. Over a span of two years, they developed a scientific illustration for every letter of the alphabet, laid out the book, designed cover art, and navigated the self-publishing process. The book is the first of its kind and highlights the use of model organisms important in scientific research.

Ahna Skop, PhD
Ahna Skop, PhD

“It’s so awesome to have this out there, and I’m so proud of Elif and Caitlin,” Skop says. “The response we are getting is much more than we expected, and it’s great to see so many kids get excited about the book and send me their drawings, too. So many young children love science and if I could bottle the excitement when we talk to them in our virtual workshops, I would.”

Their work has been written about and mentioned in numerous campus publications and in outlets including Forbes. Skop and the students have done outreach to youth groups in Wisconsin, such as the Girl Scouts.

“I have been honored to work with such talented undergraduates who are interdisciplinary at their core,” Skop says. “Never underestimate the power of undergrads! They can do amazing things!”

Some of the proceeds of book sales support historically marginalized students and programs in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM). Skop says she has donated the proceeds to the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) so far, and plans to also donate to the UW–Madison STEM Posse program in the future.

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