Read Anna’s paper via THIS LINK
What first interested you in medical visualisation?
A few years ago, a dear friend forwarded an article about a scientific illustration to me, suggesting that this would be the perfect opportunity to combine two passions of mine: medicine and art. At that time, I was studying Medicine. Although I had always been intrigued by the visuals I came across during my studies, I had never seriously considered a career in medical visualisation before. When reading the article, I realised that was what I wanted: to work where science and art meet.
Tell us a bit about your background and education.
My background is in Medicine; I obtained the Bachelor of Medicine at the University of Groningen (The Netherlands) before crossing the English Channel to study Medical Art at the University of Dundee. Upon graduating, I was lucky enough to be able to do a three month internship at the Dundee Dental School, where I worked on an online student resource on oral cancer. By the time my internship came to an end, I had been offered a job as a medical illustrator at the e-learning development team of the University of Groningen, which is where I am employed currently.
As a medical illustrator, what does your job entail?
The team I am part of creates online content for students of the faculty of medical sciences.The team is composed of both students and professionals, which creates a really energetic and innovative vibe. My role is to produce visuals for the online content we create and to support the students to source and create appropriate visuals. The job is multifaceted, which I love: the one moment I may be studying and sketching specimen in the dissection room, the next I might be brainstorming on educational topics, researching promising new technologies or building interactive 3D models.
What tools or software do you use in your work?
The software I use depends on the type of project. Most projects, however, start with literature research and sketches (mostly graphite or pen, although I also had a go at using Google Tiltbrush). Sketches for illustrations are taken into Adobe Illustrator and often modified further in Adobe Photoshop.
My 3D models are almost always created in Pixologic Zbrush. For models based on scans I use InVesalius to create 3D objects from the stack of 2D images. These are processed further in Pixologic Zbrush. The resulting 3D models are hosted online via Sketchfab and are available for viewing (and often downloading) worldwide under a creative commons licence.
Can you briefly tell us about the project “Histology in 3D: development of an online interactive student resource on epithelium“?
My final project for the MSc Medical Art was the creation and initial evaluation of an online resource on epithelium for medical students. The idea arose when Dr. Richard Oparka and I were brainstorming histological topics that could benefit from 3D visualisation. The relationship between the appearance of epithelium and its function as well as linking this information to clinical practice are principles that can be difficult to understand for first-year medical students. The project comprises of the creation of an online resource for medicine students about epithelium.
It was intended as an additional learning resource for the medical curriculum at the University of Dundee and consists of a series of interactive three-dimensional models as well as textual content and illustrations about epithelium. It aims to create a portable, accessible resource tailored to the curriculum that engages the student and allows the student to master information at its own pace; a resource that promotes a better understanding of the epithelium.
Did you need to learn any new skills during the project?
Yes, so many actually! It was the first time I used Adobe Muse (to build the website without having to write codes) and my first experience with web design, as well as with adjusting models for 3D printing (for the exhibition that was also related to the project). It was also the biggest project I had undertaken so far and it taught me a lot about setting (realistic) deadlines and the importance of working with set feedback rounds.
But above all, it taught me that I really enjoy creating educational content and figuring out ways to optimally visualise topics.
What was most rewarding about the project?
Without a doubt getting positive feedback on the resource from students, confirming that it was a valuable resource. Because that was our aim throughout the project: to create something that would help students master the topic.
What are you working on right now?
There are several projects I’m currently working on, but one that I find especially interesting revolves around the 3D visualisation of congenital heart disease. It all started with a previous project in echocardiography, bridging the gap between the 3D anatomy of the heart and it’s 2D representation in echo loops (The models created for the online learning resource can be found here), which will now be taken to another level.
In a collaboration with Leiden University to create models of several congenital heart diseases, based on the Leiden Collection of Malformed Hearts, I have been at the dissection room in Leiden to sketch the specimen over there. At the moment I am finishing a rough first draft of the models. The purpose of these models is to help medical students relate the abnormal anatomy in congenital heart disease to its representation on ultrasounds. Once finished, these models will be published on Sketchfab as well.
Is there another project you would like the opportunity to undertake?
There is a whole list of projects, actually. There are so many subjects I would love to visualise software packages and techniques I would love to learn to master. One of the things I would love to learn is to become more skilled in traditional model making. During my masters I had the opportunity to create a wax model, which was a lot of fun to do. I also really enjoyed painting the 3D printed epithelial models of the online resource and I’m really curious to experiment with other materials to create physical models.
READ MORE about Anna and her work here:
My portfolio website is www.annasieben.com which I try to keep updated with recent projects.