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#IAmNYAS: Jaime Nelson Noven

Published August 28, 2018

#IAmNYAS: Jaime Nelson Noven
#IAmNYAS: Jaime Nelson Noven

Jaime's portrait of research and artificial intelligence expert, Meredith Whittaker, drawn during our May 2018 event, The Enhanced Human: Risks and Opportunities.

#IAmNYAS: Jaime Nelson Noven

Jaime's portrait of physicist Richard Feynman.

#IAmNYAS: Jaime Nelson Noven

One of the illustrations Jaime created for her Pop Science Book Club.

Effective science communication is crucial to ensuring that science is able to have a full and lasting impact across every sector of our society. But effective science communication doesn’t always take the form of a well-written paper or expertly delivered talk. Laughter, wonder, compelling images, and good storytelling can be just as important. That’s where someone like Academy Member Jaime Nelson Noven comes in. An illustrator and book publishing professional, we asked Jaime to share a bit about herself and her experience sharing science stories in creative ways.

What led to your interest in the sciences?

I was interested in science as a kid via science fiction, but it wasn’t until after college that I rediscovered science through watching stand-up comedy. Comedian Robin Ince started doing standup shows exclusively about science, then co-hosted The Infinite Monkey Cage and launched the Cosmic Shambles Network. These things made me want to seek out similar science entertainment, like Festival of the Spoken Nerd, as well as read books by scientists participating in these programs.

When did you begin combining your interest in science and the arts?

Only recently—in the last year or two—did I make the switch from drawing portraits of comedians to drawing portraits of scientists, and now just this summer I launched, an illustrated guide to all the new pop science books being published.

And in the last five years, I’ve been fortunate to help publicize some terrific science-related books.

"Identify your passions and make them work together. There’s always a way."

What are some of the best science books that you’ve read lately?

Published within the last year, my favorites are:

  • The Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wildlife by Lucy Cooke
  • A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes by Adam Rutherford
  • The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World by Steve Brusatte
  • How to Build a Universe by Professor Brian Cox, Robin Ince, and Alexandra Feachem
  • The Element in the Room: Science-y Stuff Staring You in the Face by Helen Arney and Steve Mould
  • The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli
  • Happy Brain: Where Happiness Comes From, and Why by Dean Burnett

My all-time favorite is Janna Levin’s Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space, the best-selling gravitational waves book. This summer, I finally read her 2006 novel, A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines, a story about Alan Turing and Kurt Gödel. Whether she’s writing fiction or non-fiction, her prose is an absolute delight to read!

"My 2018 New Year’s resolution was to get more involved with science in New York City; to meet people who are similarly passionate about science. "

What are your top tips for combining art and science?

Identify your passions and make them work together. There’s always a way. Comedy mathematician Matt Parker combined computer science and knitting to make a scarf in binary. Folk singer Grace Petrie has written love songs about the life of Charles Darwin and of Carl Sagan. Trent & Melinda Burton did a photography exhibition of women at the forefront of the arts and sciences dressed as superheroes that reflect their fields of study. Go beyond the obvious!

Also, follow the Instagram hashtag #sciart for inspiration. Some Instagrammers doing great things with art and science include @the.minouette, @emmanigma_, and @meganleestudio. [And don't miss Jaime's own instagram @nelsonnoven!]

What made you decide to become and Academy Member?

My 2018 New Year’s resolution was to get more involved with science in New York City; to meet people who are similarly passionate about science. So I joined the Academy and volunteered at the World Science Festival. I love going to all the Academy events (and creating illustrations about them)!

Are you also inspired by the many stories and inspiring images of science? Does effective and creative science communication motivate you? Don’t miss our upcoming Members-Only Annual Meeting, which will feature an interactive panel discussion exploring questions at the intersection of science and journalism. Not a Member, but want to attend? Become a Member today.