Who am I?
I am a senior science writer and the scientific communications liaison for the Basic Sciences Division at Fred Hutch Cancer Center where I share and explain the groundbreaking and fascinating research happening at Basic Sciences. The division is home to leading experts in cell biology, virology, systems biology, and neuroscience all working to better understand the fundamental underpinnings of our biology, how dysregulation causes disease, and how to find cures.
A neuroscientist by training, I received my doctorate under the mentorship of Dr. Richard Hyson as a part of the birdsong research group at Florida State University. My research focused on the hierarchy of processing in the brain, using electrophysiology and computational biology to understand how changes in ion channel expression alters the activity of circuits. My research offered some of the first direct evidence of experience-dependent non-synaptic plasticity in learning.
I love learning and exploring new ideas, but above all, I love sharing whatever knowledge I can with others. I believe a more scientifically literate and engaged populace makes society healthier, happier, and more prosperous. I also love learning and experimenting with new tools and forms of expression.
We live on a tiny rock flying through an unfathomably large universe, but that rock is full of countless wonderful, beautiful, and complex things. It is my hope to explore and understand as much of it as possible — no matter if what is being explored is microscopic or massive (like the giant sequoia tree in the photo on the left).
Highlights of Scientific and Creative Work:
I am a senior science writer and the scientific communications liaison for the Basic Sciences Division at Fred Hutch Cancer Center, where I share and explain the groundbreaking and fascinating research happening at Basic Sciences. The division is home to leading experts in cell biology, virology, systems biology, and neuroscience all working to better understand the fundamental underpinnings of our biology, how dysregulation causes disease, and how to find cures.
In my role, I write about the division's research for both scientific and non-scientific audiences, design graphics and documents, and create content for social media and fredhutch.org. Highlighted below are a sampling of some of the projects I've worked on.
The History of Fred Hutch's Basic Sciences Division
In celebration of the Basic Sciences Division's 40th Anniversary of its founding at Fred Hutch, I created a special document that detailed the history of the division and highlighted the many accomplishments of the division and its members over its 40-year history.
What makes a scientist?
As evidenced by my own career, the careers of scientists are often serendipitous, weaving through various interests and life experiences that lead them to a life doing science.
Above are screen snippets of Spotlights I've written that explore the varied paths that drove Basic Sciences' faculty to a career in research. I particularly love writing these stories as they highlight the diversity of the people that pursue a career in science, both in terms of their upbringing and their research backgrounds.
Click here to read the full Spotlight for Dr. Aakanksha Singhvi.
Social Media Management
Traditionally science and its discoveries have been siloed behind paywalls and access has been limited to those with institutional affiliation. This has limited the public discourse to be driven by non-scientists. Social media in its various forms has democratized communication, allowing an avenue for scientists to communicate directly with the public sphere.
I manage the Basic Sciences Division's public facing twitter account, while helping produce content for Hutch-wide social channels, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and more.
Scientific Illustration and Art
When trying to express technical concepts, images are often the best medium. While I spend much of my time speaking and writing about science, I am also a skilled scientific illustrator and artist.
I channel my artistic fascination with cells, the biological units of life, into MTRoss Design. This is the home for my art, where I explore biology, our sense of self, and our place in the universe. I am fixated by the reality that we are creatures made up of trillions of individual cells that all work in concert to maintain their continued existence within the universe. Beyond that existential crisis, is the fact that somehow the interactions between our cells results in consciousness and self awareness.
Below are select examples of my of my art and scientific illustration.
Visual Abstract of Quiescent Cells
Often images can more succinctly explain a concept. Throughout my career, the ability to create scientific illustrations has proved invaluable both in terms of scientific publications and presentations.
Above is mock-up of a visual abstract describing experiments that explored changes in gene regulation underlying quiescence, a process by which cells stop dividing, go dormant, and "fall asleep."
Birdsong Brain Schematic
The above brain-schematic was created as part of my research into the vocal-learning network detailed in the scientific research section below.
Fine Art Piece "The Brain"
Above is a zoomed in look at a digital art piece, titled "The Brain." Click the title to see the full image. This piece won the 2017 Graduate Excellence in the Visual Arts award from FSU. The first edition of this work is currently on display at the Art and Sciences Graduate School building.
I am a neuroscientist by training, receiving my PhD under the mentorship of Dr. Richard Hyson as a part of the birdsong research group at Florida State University. My research focused on the hierarchy of processing in the brain, using electrophysiology and computational biology to understand how changes in ion channel expression alters the activity of circuits. My research offered some of the first direct evidence of experience-dependent non-synaptic plasticity in learning.
Non-synaptic Plasticity in Learning
My graduate research focused on characterizing the electrophysiological activity of neurons in a brain area called HVC, which is critical to the learning and production of vocal patterns in songbirds.
HVC Neuronal Modeling
The last decade has highlighted how important computational modeling will be to furthering biological discoveries. In my research the interplay between modeling and experimentation was critical to the discoveries made understanding the electrophysiological changes that underlie learning and memory. Specifically mathematical modeling allowed us to generate hypothesis for ion channel expression patterns which could be empirically tested.
The above image highlights an example of a model generated from neuronal activity during early vocal learning.
Teaching & Science Outreach
I absolutely love teaching and explaining science to anyone who is curious enough to want to learn. I have lectured for groups of a dozen students all the way up to 300 seat auditoriums. I have taught elementary aged children, high school, college undergrad and grad students, and senior learners.
Above, I am helping a young wannabe neuroscientist hear the activity of her nerves during FSU's Annual Brain Fair.
Media Production and 3D Design
I love learning new tools of expression, particularly when they overlap with my other areas of interest. I have an extensive background in audio recording and photography, which comes in handing when producing and collaborating with producers of multimedia content. Additionally since discovering the value of 3D printing and design in grad school I have been a proponent of its utility for research. Below you will find a sampling of projects that highlight some of my diverse skills in these domains.
Music Composition & Audio Production
My eventual journey into neuroscience started through music composition. I write, play, and produce the music for my band Lonely Creatures. I have also composed the music for several video game projects through Why Games Studio.
I've been an avid photographer for over a decade, both out of a joy for the art form and for it's cross-utility in my other projects and work assignments.
Above is a photo of a hoary marmot (Marmota caligata) munching some grass at Mt. Rainier National Park.
3D Design & Printing
I first discovered the utility of 3D design and printing in grad school, where I designed custom 3D-printed electrophysiology chambers. Since then I have become proficient in Autodesk Fusion 360 and regularly use filament and resin based 3D printers for both personal and professional projects. I oversee the use of and maintain the Basic Science Division's Raise-3D filament printer.
Above is a cross section of the 3D model of a freezing chamber used for Cryo-EM I designed using Autodesk Fusion 360.
Analog & Video Game Design
I love playing and making games in all forms. The medium manages to combine my interest in design, information processing, and decision making. While play is not exclusive to humanity, the conscious creation of abstractions of reality for the purpose of play does appear to be unique. Singularity Games is home to my board and analog game projects.
The Singularity Deck
The Singularity Deck is a special deck of playing cards that I designed that consists of more than twelve suits. This is a passion project that I've been iterating on for several years. Above is a photo of the Third edition of the deck
Magnetic Chess Board
The Magnetic Chess board is a 3D printed chess board where each square is independently held to the others with magnets. While an 8 by 8 square board is the most common, the magnetic board allows for the size of the board to change allowing the board to be used for games other than chess, such as Tak.
Gravity Ark is one of several mobile games produced by WHY Games Studio in collaboration with my brother and lead programmer, Christopher Ross. I served as the lead sound artist and visual designer for the project.