Genetic Reflections

Coloring Outside the Lines with Broader Impacts

This is a depiction of the cover of the coloring book.

While collaboration in science is essential, the good news is that potential collaborators aren’t required to be in the form of other principal investigators. In fact, collaborators from outside one’s field often have skills and perspectives that can bring broader impact ideas to life.

Dr. Ahna Skop’s (MCB 1716298) recently published book, “Genetic Reflections: A coloring book” is the result of such a collaboration – involving Dr. Skop and two undergraduates, Elif Kurt and Caitlin Marks. Kurt and Marks developed the illustrations for the coloring book as part of their independent project for a Life Sciences Communication class. The coloring book is an extension of an earlier broader impact activity achieved through a collaboration with artist Angela Johnson. That project, also titled “Genetic Reflections,” is a 40-foot-long science art installation on display at the Biotech Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is open to the public.

The aim of the coloring book is to inspire children and other members of the public as they discover the natural beauty of science and genetics. Within the coloring book are 26 illustrations of basic biological concepts – one for every letter of the alphabet. For example, the letter A goes with the illustration Arabidopsis thaliana (pictured below), a small flowering plant frequently used as a model organism in plant biology studies.

Nearly 400 copies of the book have been sold since its release in October 2020. A preview of the book is available online at the Skop Lab’s web page. The preview page has proven popular, receiving almost 1,500 unique visits since its inception. 

The broader impacts do not stop at the book itself; it has also spawned a variety of other outreach events. Most recently, Skop’s team introduced the book to a Girl Scout troop in Madison, Wisconsin to introduce troop members to the beauty of science and genetics.

Working on the coloring book has given Kurt a great appreciation for how science communication can be used in her career. As a future doctor, she has a passion for bridging the communication barrier between health care providers and their patients and believes that her experiences working on this book will help her to “bring a human touch back to medicine.”

Image for coloring, titled "A is for Arabidopsis thaliana"

Some of the proceeds of the book are donated to charities and programs that support historically marginalized students and programs in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM).



Broader Impacts* are just as important as Intellectual Merit in the NSF Merit Review process. Dr. Ahna Skop has found a recipe for broader impacts that’s given the public a taste for science. Learn the story of her not-so-secret ingredients.

Dr. Ahna SkopFor Dr. Ahna Skop, the key ingredients in the recipe for good broader impacts are found in a researcher’s personal passions. (more…)