Computer Graphics World

Edition 2 2020

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36 cgw e d i t i o n 2 , 2 0 2 0 Veronica Falconieri Hays, Falconieri Visuals Veronica Falconieri Hays is a certified med- ical illustrator specializing in medical, mo- lecular, cellular, and biological visualization, encompassing still media and animation, at her company, Falconieri Visuals, based in the Washington, DC, area. Falconieri Hays received her undergrad- uate degree in biology from Smith College, with a minor in art, before earning a master of art degree in medical illustration, "which covered a lot of the basics of how to create accurate illustrations and the general techniques that are used in a lot of the medical and scientific visualizations today," she says. Aer graduating in 2014, Falconieri Hays worked at the National Cancer Institute as an illustrator and animator before launching her own company in 2017. In order to become certified in this field, Falconieri Hays has to meet con- tinuing education requirements and pass an exam by illustrating art, medical, and business knowledge. "Everything I do translates scientific information, research, understanding, and concepts into visuals. This means doing a lot of research and having a fair amount of literacy in the underlying concepts, and then adapting that visually to the appro- priate audience, whether to experts or the public," she explains. "It's about making that connection between complex ideas and translating it visually to the right audience." Naturally, Falconieri Hays was always in- terested in both science and art, and heard about this field while she was in high school. "When I was pondering my future career and college choices, I initially thought that I either had to choose science or art. Fortu- nately, I heard about medical illustration and realized it would enable me to incorporate both into a career," she notes. Falconieri Hays' client list comprises communications agencies that work with biotech companies which have complex science they need to explain to investors, for instance. Others are researchers and scien- tists themselves who need help with visuals to explain the work on a research project. She also produces imagery for publications, such as Scientific American (a recent issue cover image and main article image contains an illustration the artist did of SARS-CoV-2, the COVID-19 virus, in 3D). Depending on the audience, the imag- ery can be scientifically precise, or such that Falconieri Hays can play with scale or use metaphor. It just has to be clear and understandable to the audience for which it is intended. "I focus on molecular and cellular visu- alization, using 3D," Falconieri Hays says. In particular, she employs Maxon's Cinema 4D – which she learned in grad school – because "it has a plug-in, ePMV, that allows me to directly pull molecular data. I also use [Pixologic's] ZBrush for organic modeling." Once the modeling and animation is completed, Falconieri Hays uses various Adobe tools "to bring it together." Render- ing is done either with the Cinema 4D's standard renderer or with the Redshi renderer, depending on the look she is going for. For compositing, she uses Adobe Aer Effects. When creating her work, Falconieri Hays will spend a great deal of time collaborating with scientists and researchers, who will identify the scientific concept and story they want to convey, as well as their audience for the project. They will also identify the format they need, whether it's video or still images. Then she begins sketching with pencil and paper. Once the client agrees that all the important points are covered and correct, she begins the creation process, whether it's in 3D or 2D. As the recent pandemic was developing, Falconieri Hays, along with colleagues at the Association of Medical Illustrators, created a shared reference document, which included an illustration summarizing the 3D structural features of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike (S) pro- tein structure (SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19). "Research was coming out so fast; it's a lot to keep track of. So, we decided to collaborate and help one another by crowd-sourcing a lot of our reference to help medical illustrators as a whole," she explains. "And because I have a particular expertise in the 3D molecular structure, I wanted to create something to give back to my colleagues if they were asked to visualize the spike protein, for example. This way, they'd have a better understanding of how it works because it's pretty complicated." For this particular illustration, Falconieri Hays looked closely at the 3D structure of the spike proteins, which are the hook-like pieces that project out from the surface of SARS-CoV-2. This work required a great deal of research. In fact, out of the approximately 27 hours it took for Falconieri Hays to do the project, at least half of that was spent conducting research, "just making sure I understood the basis of the virus structure and the unique details about the spike structure, because it's a target for vaccine development," she explains. "It's an area that an antibody, for instance, could bind to and block the virus from interacting with human cells." According to Falconieri Hays, animations are becoming a larger part of the work she is asked to do, oen to show how a therapeu- tic works. While Falconieri Hays may not be creating visuals for the next blockbuster, the work she does is extremely important. "I do a lot of illustrations that are scientifically com- municating to other scientists, but I also do projects that are more public-based," she says. "It's really important having amazing visuals because the subject matter is so complicated. You're asking a lot of your viewer to step in and really take the time to understand the science you're communicat- ing. If you attach an enticing visual to it, you get a little more buy-in. You can communi- cate more science to the viewer if you have a visual that hooks them and piques their interest." Karen Moltenbrey is the chief editor of CGW. The CDC 3D-printed this model of the rotavirus.

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