Name: Sonya Amin

Age: 31

Born: Montreal, QC

Profession: Medical Artist

Do you love to draw and love learning about science? People have probably told you that you have to pick one or the other, but it turns out you can do both! From textbooks to TV shows, medical artists bring science to life. This month, a medical artist tells us about her career combining her two passions.

What is a Medical Artist?

A medical artist creates illustrations and animations that visually explain science concepts. This can be for the purposes of education, marketing of products (like pharmaceuticals or medical devices) or even for entertainment (TV series and science specials).

What is a typical day like for you?

There are actually two parts to my career. I’m a medical artist but I run my own studio so I’m an entrepreneur as well. I get to work at 9AM. From there, everyday is different. I discuss projects with clients and with my business partners and employees. I draw storyboards for animations, research what various molecules, cell processes, anatomical details might look like and sketch them from my imagination. And I do the nitty-gritty paperwork that keeps our business running smoothly, from tax credit and insurance applications to paying bills and employees to preparing quotes for our clients. Interesting projects, a great team to work with, tons to do, I’m definitely never ever bored!

Did you always want to be a Medical Artist?

Nope. I wanted to draw comics. But my parents always encouraged me to go into science/medicine. Luckily I was pretty good at science and liked it, too. During my undergrad, I majored in a subject that still fascinates me: Developmental Biology and I worked part-time in the zoology department’s animal facilities. After I graduated, I worked as a lab tech for some great professors til the drawing bug caught up with me. This is what led me to medical art.

What courses in high school prepared you for this field?

The courses that prepared me for this field turned out to be all my favorite courses:

  • Biology
  • English and Creative Writing – writing well and being able to convey your ideas to others in a fun, creative way is key!
  • Art

This field requires that you have skills as an artist but a deep understanding and passion for science.

Where did you go to university/college?

University of Toronto – undergraduate degree in Developmental Biology; Masters in Biomedical Communications

How did you decide where to go?

For my undergraduate degree, simple geography - I lived in the suburbs and wanted to be downtown in the Big City. UofT has a great academic reputation and a medical school (my parents still held out hope for that doctor in the family). For my master’s, there are only a handful of accredited programs in North America; the one at UofT being the only one in Canada.

Was there extra training required for this career after you finished college/university?

Nope. Just practice, practice, practice.

What is the coolest part of your job?

The coolest part of my job is that it is so inherently cool! People see the animations that our company creates and they're just amazed that we get to do this for a living.

What’s the worst part of your job?

We are entrepreneurs and running a business is tough. It requires a lot of time and dedication.

Being project-based, our work has due dates. But it can sometimes be hard to be creative on demand. It’s frustrating when ‘artist’s block’ strikes and you have a deadline looming. You have to learn to take a deep breath and relax – it really keeps those creative juices flowing!

What’s the salary range for this particular job and field?

It's changed quite a bit (and for the better!) over the last five years.

Typically you can make 45-50K when you graduate, working full-time in a studio in Toronto. More if you follow the 'brain-drain' to the States; but the flipside of crossing the border for work is that the market there is a bit unstable these days. As you gain experience, you can work up to 70K+.

Ooooops! Everyone makes mistakes so what was the dumbest thing you've ever done at work?

Nothing too major… occasionally accidentally delete a file – doh! Our server is now backed up everyday…

Any advice that you would give others seeking a similar career?

You need knowledge of science, skills in art & design and have a passion for computers. Everything from the art to the paperwork is done digitally these days so this isn't a career for someone who is a technophobe ;)

What are some great web links or references for someone interesting in reading up more about this career?

This is where I did my Masters in BMC:

http://www.bmc.med.utoronto.ca/bmc/index.php

This is our professional association:

http://www.ami.org/

What is the last movie you saw? Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Star Trek.Thumbs up!

What was the last book you read? Jam it or can it?

Jpod – jam it, it's hilarious and random

What’s one thing nobody knows about you?

I have never won anything in Tim Horton's roll-up-the-rim – ever – it's like a total conspiracy or something...

What’s your favorite cartoon character?

This is a very difficult question.

I LOVE cartoons.

Let’s see, favourite character… Mojo Jojo? Dr Girlfriend? The singing frog from Looney Tunes?

Sheesh, so hard to pick one... let's go with ...Stimpy!

What’s one thing you can’t do but really want to be able to?

I want to be able to do a hand stand.

What’s the best advice your mother gave you?

Eat your veggies.

Tattoos: cool or uncool?

Personal choice

I have one ...

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