Photographer and researcher Felice Frankel has a gift for making complex scientific breakthroughs not just understandable, but beautiful. Now, through a free MITx course titled “Making Science and Engineering Pictures,” she is teaching others how to do the same.
In a recent interview with Nidhi Subbaraman at Beta Boston, Frankel recounts her path from biology major to photographer. One of her earliest projects involved improving the imagery that would accompany a paper describing a scientific technique called soft lithography. When she added fluorescent dye to otherwise transparent blocks of water, a checkerboard pattern emerged, clearly outlining each individual drop. The image appeared on the cover of Science magazine.
These days, Frankel often employs a flatbed scanner in her work; scanning objects at a high resolution captures details at the micron level and adds a 3-D element to the images.
Frankel is passionate about sharing her expertise with scientists and teaching them to create compelling visuals to accompany their research—not only to make the science accessible to the general public, but also to non-experts who control funding for scientific research. “Everybody is selling and trying to get attention,” Frankel told MIT News. “The visual is the nexus of these kinds of conversations.”