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Furthering Science and Saving Lives

MICA graduates demonstrate that art is relevant to every industry

Posted 11.01.12 by mica communications

Aleks Bogunovic '12 '13 (fiber, Business of Art & Design) working on a Thermal Infrared Sensor for NASA.

Two MICA alumnae are proving art can literally be a matter of life and death. Sneha Pai ’07 (animation) and Emily G. Shaw ’00 (painting) both use their talents to help medical professionals learn their crafts.

Pai works for MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC, in the Simulation Training Environment Lab (SiTEL), where she contributes to the creation of medical training simulations for doctors, residents, and nurses. “For various procedures—whether anatomical or a physician interacting with a patient—we create a virtual scenario that trains doctors and allows them to make mistakes in a gaming environment before they perform the real procedure,” Pai explained.

Pai credits MICA with teaching the importance of constantly challenging and educating yourself, which has helped her to keep up with the fast-paced evolution of healthcare. “In school we were urged to keep learning for life,” she said. “Being willing to learn and applying those skills in new projects are what keep you fresh and competitive.”

Shaw also works for SiTEL, where she runs a clinical simulation center in Baltimore. In addition to creating virtual worlds for clinicians to practice in, she has run a freelance medical illustration business called Illustrating Medicine since 2003. Among her list of clients are healthcare company Johnson & Johnson and medical publisher Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

“Medical illustration is a way to simplify very complex medical information into a storyline that gets right to the heart of the information needed to be communicated,” Shaw said. “MICA helped me to establish a strong sense of professionalism around art creation in general,” she said. “Technology is just a tool, but the key is having a strong foundation in color theory and an understanding of how to bring it all together into a strong visual element. That is what I learned at MICA.”

Healthcare isn’t the only field benefiting from the expertise of MICA alumni. Aleks Bogunovic ’12 ’13 (fiber, Business of Art & Design) is lending her talent to space exploration by making thermal blankets to cover and protect space instruments for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). “We work with thermal engineers who give us the specifications of the blanket layout they want, which basically means how thick the blanket needs to be,” Bogunovic said. Currently, she flies back and forth between her home in Maryland and Arizona, where she’s working on thermal blankets for the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS), a satellite instrument that detects heat and is used to take the earth’s temperature.

“A lot of times people say, ‘what are you doing at NASA with an art degree?’” she said. “But you use a lot of technical skills from sewing to pattern making, and you have to be creative.” Another skill that has helped her is the ability to think three dimensionally. “MICA is where I learned how to do that,” she said.

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Image caption: Aleks Bogunovic '12 '13 (fiber, Business of Art & Design) working on a Thermal Infrared Sensor for NASA.