By Kate Griswold
From a young age, Kate Baldwin was interested in how visual illustrations in text books helped to communicate complex theories. “Diagrams were always incredibly helpful for me to understand what teachers were talking about,” she states.
After graduating from Lewis & Clarke College in Portland, Oregon with an undergraduate degree in molecular biology and biochemistry she pursued a PhD in cellular and molecular biology at UW–Madison.
During her graduate work Kate said scientific diagrams continued to help her understand her classes. Diagrams were her favorite part of studying science. So much so that she started to create her own diagrams for her papers, projects, and classes.
While at the UW–Madison, Kate took numerous DoIT and Lynda.com classes to help her better understand visual design and publishing programs. Her friends and colleagues saw her talent and would ask her to help create diagrams for their papers. After graduation, she continued to create diagrams for friends and realized that this could be something that could be profitable.
Baldwin now uses her understanding of science in her freelance business creating clear visual communication tools for science journal articles, magazines, and papers along with consumer diagrams for lay audiences.
The impact is broad for both the scientific community, and the general public alike. “The figures I make for the scientific community have a big pay out for the clients,” Baldwin says. “You are more likely to be searched, cited, and documented when you have clear visual diagrams to communicate your findings. There would be no point to research if you couldn’t clearly communicate the results,” Baldwin states.
Beyond scientific diagrams, Baldwin has created images for other audiences. “I did two infographics for a NOVA vaccine diagram,” Baldwin recalls. “If you can make a clear diagram to persuade someone who was not going to be vaccinated to get a vaccine, you impact not only that person, but the world too.”
Baldwin used her time during graduate school to network with peers and professors. Today, many of her clients are people that she met in some capacity during her studies at UW–Madison. She encourages other young students to take advantage of the people and resources they have in their network while in school and make connections that matter.
Although Baldwin doesn’t work in a lab and didn’t do a postdoc, her PhD continues to be a valuable professional asset.