Graduate student profile: Christine Liu


Click image to download Christine’s zine

PhD student Christine Liu is studying how nicotine affects the brain and promoting science through art

Christine Liu is a second year Neuroscience PhD Student in the Lammel Lab at UC Berkeley. She has recently combined her scientific and artistic talents to produce a zine about the 2015 UC Berkeley Neuroscience Research Conference. Her “Neuro Retreat” zine highlights some exciting research being done by neuroscience graduate students and postdocs at UC Berkeley, from understanding the neural mechanisms behind hunger and thirst, to restoration of vision using photoswitch molecules, to deep neural networks that can learn about art. True to the history of zines as a means of getting information to those who need it and may not otherwise have access, Christine is exploring this medium as a way to inform a general audience about science. You can download her zine here.

Christine will be showing off her zines and other art at the East Bay Alternative Book and Zine Fest on Dec 12 at Berkeley City College.


About Christine

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an artist or an astronaut. Fundamentally, I wanted to create and discover things that humankind had never seen before. Today I can say that I am living my dream studying nicotine’s effects on the brain while making art in my spare time. Despite tobacco’s pervasive influence on our culture, we still do not know exactly how nicotine affects the brain. In the Lammel lab, I hope to identify the circuitry underlying nicotine’s rewarding and aversive effects via slice electrophysiology and behavioral experiments. I love the hands-on nature of work in the lab while being challenged to think about the big picture when contextualizing my results.

There is much to be said about the similarities between art and science. Both are methods for understanding and representing the natural world that require creativity and resilience and oftentimes, precision. I often base my art on scientific concepts and will work off of models or images, but I intentionally add abstractions that deviate from reality. Art allows me to choose how accurately I wish to portray the world. In fact, I find that after a very technical day in the lab I will create art that is more abstract or silly. If I have expended a lot of creativity at work coming up with a research plan or writing, I opt for more technical and geometric drawings. I find that research and painting create a balance in my life that allows constant creativity and learning.

I am very lucky to be part of a rigorous and talented scientific community that also prizes work-life balance and the arts. I have been met with nothing but support for my scientific and artistic endeavors at Berkeley. During my short time here, I have shown art at a bioengineering art show, been invited to paint a mural at a co-op, designed for the Berkeley Science Review, and helped create an HWNI tshirt. Most recently, I have been working on zines as outreach to non-scientists in artistic communities. To bridge the gap between the labs and the community, I made one about research presented at the HWNI conference with help from the presenters. The Berkeley neuroscience community is so unique in its outstanding quality of research and the willingness of researchers to go above and beyond to share their talents with others. I am so happy to be a part of it and am excited to see how I continue to grow as a scientist and artist within HWNI.



An example page from Christine’s zine. Click image to download the entire Neuro Retreat zine.

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