This article aims to answer the questions of what scientific illustration is as well as provide a listing of the scientific illustration programs currently accepting students.
What is Scientific Illustration?
The primary goal of a scientific illustrator is to provide accurate illustration and renderings for scientific subjects. These illustrations are often used in textbooks and scientific journals, though they may also be used in magazines, websites, or museums as well.
In this article I will only be listing those which focus is on biology or medicine. There are also many programs in botanical illustration but I will not cover them here as my focus is, of course, medicine.
Bachelor’s Degrees in Scientific Illustration : Arcadia University BA in Scientific Illustration
Arcadia University’s program specifically prepares you for biology illustration or pre-medical illustration, each has its own concentration. 93 credits spread over art courses, biology courses, and scientific illustration courses are required. A portfolio review is required for admission.
Internships and study abroad opportunities are available. Internships have included Academy of Natural Science, Jefferson Hospital and the Philadelphia Zoo.
Rochester Institute of Technology BFA in Medical Illustration
This BFA is a four year intensive program requiring the following courses:
FDTN-111 Drawing I 3
FDTN-121 2D Design I 3
FDTN-131 3D Design I 3
BIOM-111 Human Biology I (SMTL) 3
BIOM-231 Human Biology I Lab 1
LAS Foundation 1: First-Year Seminar 3
FDTN-112 Drawing II 3
FDTN-122 2D Design II 3
FDTN-141 4D Design 3
BIOM-112 Human Biology II (SMTL) 3
BIOM-232 Human Biology II Lab (SMTL) 1
ENGL-150 LAS Foundation 2: Writing Seminar 3
Illustration Electives 6
MEDS-250 Anatomy and Physiology I 4
ARTH-135 LAS Perspective 2: 3
Survey Western Art and Architecture I
LAS Perspective 1, 4 6
ILLS-214 Anatomic Illustration 3
ILLM-507 Computer Applications 3
In Medical Illustration
MEDS-260 Anatomy and Physiology II 4
ARTH-136 LAS Perspective 3: Survey Western 3
Art and Architecture II
ILLM-501 Human Gross Anatomy 6
ILLM-502 Illustrating Human Anatomy 3
ILLM-503 3D Modeling Organic Forms 3
LAS Immersion 1, 2 6
ILLM-508 Scientific Visualization 3
ILLM-506 3D Animation Organic Forms 3
CIAS Studio Elective 3
Free Elective 3
ILLM-515 Contemporary Media I 3
ILLM-512 Surgical Illustration 3
CIAS Studio Electives 6
LAS Immersion 3 3
Free Electives 6
ILLM-516 Contemporary Media II 3
ILLM-517 Portfolio and Business (WI) 3
LAS Elective 3
Graduate Degrees in Scientific Illustration :
Dundee University MSc in Medical Art
This is a one-year Master’s degree in Scotland. At Dundee they teach the depiction of surgery, medical science, pathology, and anatomy. Internships are available post-graduation, but not required.
Applicants must have a first or upper second class honours degree in Art/Design or Medical/Anatomical Science. A portfolio is required as well.
Semester 1 (60 credits)
Anatomy – Head and Neck
Anatomy – Post Cranial
Digital Media Practice
Semester 2 (60 credits)
Medical Art 1 – Pathology
Medical Art 2 – Surgical
Semester 3 (60 credits)
– dissertation resulting from a research project undertaken either at the university or as a placement.
Ecole Estienne Paris LSS Scientific Illustration
You will spend two years in this program, both at the College Estienne and the Faculty of Medicine Pitie-Salpetriere. They only accept 7 people into every class. Students attend not only lectures, but also dissections and surgeries. Subjects taught include: anatomy and morphology, semiotics, literature, language, philosophy, typography, communication technology, computer graphics, and scientific illustration. Students additionally complete a two-month internship. During the second year, students complete a research project.
NOTE: This program is taught in French.
Georgia School of Health Sciences Graduate Program in Medical Illustration
This is a 21 month program which ends in completion of an MS in Medical Illustration. This program’s emphasis is on surgical and anatomical illustration for print and electronic publication.
Admission requirements include a Bachelor’s degree, ability to draw a human figure from observation, aesthetic sense.
The following prerequisite courses:
Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy, or Vertebrate Morphology with student dissections; Human Physiology; Life Drawing from a nude model; Advanced courses in drawing; demonstrated knowledge of computer graphics software.
Also recommended, any of the following courses:
Science Courses: Histology, Embryology, Invertebrate Anatomy, Cell Biology, Molecular Biology, Genetics, Immunology, Basic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Organic Chemistry, Zoology
Art Courses: Animation, Architectural Drawing, Cinematography, Color Theory, Drafting or Engineering Drawing, Graphic Design , Interface Design, Lighting Design , Set/Stage Design, 2D Design, Type/Font Design, Interior Design, Media Arts, Sculpture, Photography, Perspective, Print Making (Engraving, Intaglio, Lithography, Serigraphy, etc.), Technical Drawing, Fashion Illustration, Time Arts, Typography, Videography
First Year Second Year
Fall Semester Fall Semester
Human Gross Anatomy * Pathology **
Medical Illustration Techniques IA Medical Techniques IIB
Electronic Media I Surgical Observation & Sketching
Spring Semester Spring Semester
Neuroanatomy Learning Resources Management
Surgical Techniques Investigation of a Problem
Medical Illustration Techniques IB Master’s Project
Electronic Media II
Cell Biology *
Medical Illustration Techniques IIA
Surgical Observation & Sketching
* Taken with medical students
** Taken with dental students
Johns Hopkins University Department of Art as Applied Science Master of Arts Program in Medical and Biological Illustration
This Master of Arts program takes two years and is offered through Johns Hopkins Medical School. This was the first scientific illustration program, having started in 1911.
First Year Coursework:
Basic Science Courses
Human Anatomy, Comparative Pathobiology, Scientific Foundations of Medicine – Biophysics, Scientific Foundations of Medicine – Cell Physiology
Biological Illustration, Color Illustration, Communications Media: Photography, Communications Media: Graphic Design, Continuous Tone Illustration, Design of Instructional Programs, Digital Lab Essentials, Digital Imaging I – Vector and Raster Illustration 1, Digital Imaging II – Raster Illustration 2, Digital Imaging III – 3D Modeling and Animation, Digital Imaging IV – 2D Animation, Digital Imaging V – Vector Animation and Interactivity for the Web, Editorial & Conceptual Illustration, Presentation Visuals, Illustrating Anatomy, Media Reproduction, Pen & Ink Illustration, Medical Sculpture.
Second Year Coursework:Departmental Courses
Business Policy, Operating Room Sketching, Ophthalmological Illustration, Research & Thesis, Scientific Communication, Surgical Illustration, Portfolio, Elective Studies. Arranged individually with the Director’s approval, Advanced Projects in Illustration, Independent Study
Maastrich Academy of Fine Arts and Design MSI Master of Scientific Illustration
This program is in the Netherlands, but serves many international students. This program is offered via Problem Based Learning and takes two years to complete. Emphasis is on both hand-drawing and computer graphics.
Rochester Institute of Technology MFA in Medical Illustration
Admission into this program requires a Bachelor’s degree in the arts, sciences, or education. Courses should include studio art classes, one year introductory biology and three advanced biology courses. This is a 2-year intensive illustration program requiring the following courses:
ILLM-601 Human Gross Anatomy 6
ILLM-602 Anatomic Studies 3
ILLM-603 3D Modeling of Biomedical Forms 3
Choose one of the following Academic Studies Electives: 3
HCIN-660 Fundamentals of Instructional Technology
HCIN-610 Foundations of Human Computer Interactivity
VCDE-711 Design Theory and Methods 3
ILLM-606 3D Animation of Biomedical Forms 3
ILLM-607 Computer Applications in Medical Illustration 3
ILLM-608 Scientific Visualization 3
ILLM-890 Thesis 1
Studio Elective 3
Science Elective 3
ILLM-615 Interactive Media I 3
ILLM-612 Surgical Illustration 3
Studio Electives 6
ILLM-616 Interactive Media II 3
ILLM-617 Portfolio and Business Practices 3
ILLM-890 Thesis 9
Graduate Elective 3
University of Illinois at Chicago MS in Biomedical Visualization
This program has a few interesting concentrations, including 2-d design, computer visualization, and prosthetics/3d design.
Total Required Hours: 48 (2 years to complete)
Basic Science Core Courses: 8
Biomedical Visualization Core Courses: 25
Elective Courses: 10
Project Research: 5
Total Hours: 48
ANAT 441: Gross Human Anatomy
BHIS 405: Medical Sciences and Human Pathophysiology
BVIS 400: Clinical Sciences
BVIS 405: Anatomical Visualization
BVIS 415: Computer Applications
BVIS 420: Illustration Techniques
BVIS 430: Surgical Orientation
BVIS 440: Instructional Design
BVIS 450: Graphic Design
BVIS 460: 3-D Model Design
BVIS 480: Business Practices
BVIS 595: Seminar in Biomedical Visualization
BVIS 597: Project Research
BVIS 598: Research in Biomedical Visualization
BHIS 499: Information Sources in BHIS
BHIS 500: Strategic Inquiry in BHIS
BHIS 595: Seminar in Biomedical and Health Information Sciences
Non Credit Certificate Scientific Illustration Programs : The University of California, Monterey Bay Science Illustration Graduate Level Certificate
University of California offers one of the most prestigious scientific illustration programs. Graduates work has been seen at the Smithsonian Institution, the American Museum of Natural History and in various magazines including: National Geographic, Scientific American and Nature. This is a one-year graduate level program designed to prepare those who wish to have a career in scientific illustration. Scientists who wish to illustrate their own work are also encouraged to apply. This program requires twelve months full time commitment. Once the year is up, program graduates are required to complete a summer or fall internship.
Applications are due: February 15.
Applicants must have a Bachelor’s degree-preferably in a science. They also must have a strong background in representational drawing. Only 15 students are admitted yearly.