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Meet our student-artist: Elise Overton

Hi, my name is Elise Overton. I am an artist and scientist living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I am majoring in biology at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, with a minor in biochemistry. I intend to go into research, focusing on either genetics or synthetic biology, but I have been an artist my entire life. This summer, I am working with Alexander Lab through the VI4 Artist in Residence Program to create schematics for their research examining the immune system as it affects hypertension.


Hypertension is one of the most widespread health problems in America today. Though many treatments are currently available, about 50% of patients still experience out-of-control blood pressure (BP). Even if BP is controlled, end-organ damage to structures such as the heart and kidneys still presents a major risk. While no current treatments for hypertension directly target the immune system, there is evidence to suggest that immune cells play an important role in combating the disease.


My current project shows how innate immune cells are activated by hypertensive symptoms, and how they may in turn exacerbate or remedy the issue. I am excited to explore this emerging avenue of research with Alexander Lab, and to create art that will share their important research findings with a wider audience. To facilitate effective art/science communication, my work must clearly and succinctly demonstrate the interactions between various parts of the immune system

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As part of the AiR program, we were asked to share resources that our fellow artists and scientists may find helpful. I generally tend towards traditional media, but digital art is much easier to use in a professional environment, so my current project is digital. The digital art tool I shared is a free web-based program called Sketch.io, which I don’t use for professional work, but enjoy as a tool for creating art in my free time. As a perpetual artist, I am constantly searching for ways to create, and found Sketch.io while using school computers that could not access more popular non-web art programs like Clip Studio, Adobe, or Procreate. I particularly enjoy the mirror brush tool. While similar (and perhaps more refined) tools exist in other programs, the web-based format of Sketch.io makes digital art a more tactile experience, forcing me to use different motions than I would with a stylus or pencil, and challenges my creativity in unique ways. Though I’ve said I do not use the program professionally, a piece I made using Sketch.io was accepted into and sold at a juried art show in my city gallery. Despite its humble appearance, the program has proven that it can be used to make impressive artworks on par with any other.


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