AMI 2019 Recap: Interview with Dr. Isabel Romero Calvo

Pillars of Color Use in Scientific Data Communication

At this past AMI conference in Milwaukee, we were honored to have BVIS alumni and new faculty member Dr. Isabel Romero Calvo speak. Her presentation, “Pillars of Color Use in Scientific Data Communication,” changed the way we think about color and gave us some helpful pointers. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for us!

How did you get into the field of Biomedical Visualization, and how did
your passions and interests lead you to where you are now?

I moved from Spain to the States to start my postdoc at the University of Chicago. I have always loved painting with watercolors as much as visualizing science, but I had never known I could combine both fields into a dream job: Biomedical Visualization. I spent a year working on my portfolio during the weekends, while I wasn’t doing bench work, and I applied to the BVIS program. That is how the story begins…

What do you hope was the key takeaway for your presentation at the
AMI?

I wanted to reinforce the idea that color is a powerful tool for communicating scientific data. We need to have a good understanding of how the human eye perceives color, how emotions relate to color communication, and how color plays a fundamental role in the composition of figures.

Color usage is not limited to biomedical visualizers. Who should be
taking advantage of the information you presented?

You are absolutely correct that understanding how to use color in data communication is not restricted to our profession. The community of scientific researchers, and other academics can benefit from this knowledge.

As someone with a strong background in science, what do you hope for
the future of scientific communication?

I hope to see a future where the scientist and biomedical visualization community work side by side to enhance data visualization for effective communication. The relationship between both fields can be thought of as symbiotic, in which we work together and learn from each other.

What steps can scientists and visual communicators take to
communicate scientific data effectively?

A few ideas to start with are: learn the basics of color theory and the connection with types of data, select the most appropriate color palettes, be aware of color blindness, and use color with a clear purpose.

What advice do you have for young biomedical visualizers?
Never stop learning and taking on new challenges. When things get difficult, just remember why you are passionate about this field, and those feelings will provide you with the motivation and patience to be your best.