Collaborator Spotlight: ColorMePhD
At LabXchange, we believe in making learning as fun and accessible as possible. One of our collaborators, ColorMePhD, does just that with their incredible science coloring pages. We sat down with founder Dr. Julie Rorrer to discuss her work.
What’s one thing LabXchange users should know about your organization?
Each coloring page for ColorMePhD is created by a PhD student, postdoc, or professor who is performing high-level research in science or engineering. For our research-based coloring pages, we work directly with the scientists and engineers to develop illustrations and descriptions that explain their unique research projects and publications.
What’s one fun fact about your organization?
When I first came up with the idea for ColorMePhD, it was just going to be small side project to explain my PhD research to the students I volunteered with through local outreach programs. But, after the overwhelming positive response to the first coloring book, I was inspired to expand into more initiatives and seek out more scientists to feature and collaborate with!
Using science coloring books to make learning fun
What is your organization’s vision for science education?
ColorMePhD aims to communicate science on multiple levels. For future scientists, our resources aim to communicate PhD-level research to a broad audience using illustrations and descriptions and to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. At the university level, ColorMePhD also aims to help featured scientists develop skills in creating descriptions and visual metaphors to explain their research in terms a non-scientist can understand, and to showcase their unique research projects for the general public. Coloring pages provide a fun and relaxing way to engage with science and engineering research, and have been shown to reduce anxiety and provide a hands-on activity that is a safe activity to do at home or in classrooms. Our goal is for our resources to help future scientists and members of the general public develop a positive relationship with science and science topics, and to be exposed to new and complex scientific topics in an approachable and memorable way.
Who are your scientific inspirations?
When I was a young girl, if you asked me to name a female scientist, I (like many other young girls) would have struggled to come up with a name other than Marie Curie. But thanks to the mentorship of scientists through my education and career, many of whom are women, I have been inspired to see myself as a scientist and to dream to pursue creative research.
Growing up, my mother showed me the joy of science and teaching, and included me in bringing that joy to her students. As I progressed through my early education, I was privileged to have dedicated science and math teachers that helped me maintain the joyful relationship I had with science, which was further sustained by female research mentors I had in college that inspired me to pursue a career in scientific research. These mentors showed me that I belonged and could thrive in the scientific community. My father has also inspired me by encouraging me to mesh my interests in art and science. In fact, the first science communication initiative I created was called “The Adventures of Frusty and Cyclo,” a comic strip featuring two diatoms (n. frustulum and cyclotella) whose adventures in the ocean elucidated key elements of my father’s research projects in chemical engineering. This foundational experience in science communication and support of my education at an early age was instrumental in my decision to pursue a career in research.
As I have worked with the featured scientists in ColorMePhD Volume 1 and Volume 2, I continue to be inspired by the ongoing work of brilliant and creative scientists today in disciplines spanning chemistry, chemical engineering, biology, neuroscience, ecology, and more!
What is the first science experiment you remember performing?
As the daughter of a high school science teacher, I became the guinea pig to test out all of the experiments and lab activities at home. One of the earliest experiments I remember doing with my mother was to make crystals out of borax, string, and hot water. The resulting crystals look like rock candy, but they are not something you would want to eat!
Tell us what motivates you to continue creating your amazing content!
Since the release of the first set of ColorMePhD coloring pages, I received an overwhelming amount of support for the project. Our content has been downloaded and shared all over the world, and I have received messages from students, parents, and educators who have expressed their gratitude for having access to a free resource that not only introduced aspiring scientists and adults to the work that scientists and engineers are working on today, but also provided an engaging and relaxing activity that can be done at home or at school. I am especially moved when I receive messages from parents sharing photos of the pages their children have colored, and how the children, especially young girls, are inspired by the featured scientists and can see themselves pursuing a career in science and engineering as well! I was lucky as a young girl to have opportunities to engage in hands-on science and develop a positive relationship with STEM education. While we might not be able to download chemicals for a science experiment, my hope is that ColorMePhD can provide as hands-on science activity for students and members of the community anywhere!
Any individuals we should credit?
I’d like to thank all of the featured scientists from Volume 1 and 2, as well as guest scientists/artists Dr. Andreana Rosnik, Dr. Matthew Witman, Dr. Dogan Gidon, and Monica Ohnsorg. I am also grateful to the volunteer translators for ColorMePhD who are working to translate the coloring books into Spanish and other languages, as well as Tyler Chuck from Community Resources for Science and Erin Grace from Norell, Inc. for supporting the printing and distribution of coloring pages for local initiatives.
Take a look at ColorMePhD’s profile on LabXchange, or visit their website to learn more about how they make learning fun! Interested in other LabXchange content collaborators? View our growing list of content collaborators here.