The End is Nigh!

As the end of the program approaches, I find it really hard to believe that 7 weeks just went by. I remember contemplating what was in store for us and how in the world was I going to complete a research and artistry project in 8 weeks. Looking back now, I have a lot to be grateful for and I’m excited to showcase my work. Although at times it was hard to manage my schedule and some tasks seemed really daunting, I have had so many wonderful experiences. I’ve met and learned from NIU alumni members who I would never have met on my own. I’ve made new friendships with my fellow McKearn Fellows. I have grown academically and professionally, and I have completed a research and artistry project. All accomplished in the last 7 weeks. I would never have guessed I would be where I am now if someone had asked me 3 months ago, and I am proud of this summer experience.

My experiences will carry forward into my academic and professional life. I’ve had the opportunity to put into practice combining research and artistry; this is an invaluable experience for me because I want to continue to do this sort of research and artistry in the future. Also, I plan to go into Medical/Scientific Illustration after I graduate from NIU, and this project has allowed me to get an idea of what it will be like. I’ve also learned new techniques and gained more practice, which is always a good thing. I have gained more experience with research practices, writing, and public presentation. I have also gained a lot of knowledge about networking and leadership skills. These are all aspects that I will carry forward into my future career.

The most important things I will take away from this experience are building good relationships with others and the significance of giving back to your community. Your relationships with your colleagues are very important. The support that they give you help you reach your goals and without that support you will likely not achieve them. Giving back to your community is immensely important. Without the generous support of Mr. and Mrs. McKearn and all of the other NIU Alumni members involved, I would not have this wonderful opportunity and I would not have grown as much as I have. I will take this lesson and remember to give back to my community whenever I can.

I would like to thank Mr. and Mrs. McKearn for this amazing opportunity. I would like to thank my mentor Cynthia Hellyer Heinz for her guidance and support throughout this program. I want to thank the McKearn Team for their guidance and support throughout this summer. I would also like to thank the Alumni members for meeting with us and sharing their experiences. Last but not least, I would like to say I am extremely grateful for my fellow McKearn Fellows. I am so glad I have had the opportunity to get to know all of you and share these experiences with you. I hope we can all keep in touch and look back on our experiences with a smile. Thank you.



Project Reflection :)

As many baseball fans would say, my cohorts and I are going into the “7th inning stretch” of the McKearn Research Program. We have been passionately working hard on our research projects, and we are determined to complete our projects to the best of our abilities. Yet, I can probably speak for all of us when I say that the end of the program is coming too soon. I have accomplished many goals during the past several weeks, but I have many tasks ahead of me that I need to complete. I am concerned that I won’t complete my project to my own standards within the time we have left in the program. With having two illustrations to fully complete, an essay to proofread and finish, and a poster to organize, I have a lot on my plate. However, I will do anything and everything within my power to accomplish what I have set out to do.

I have been given a lot of helpful advice and guidance from my fellow McKearn Fellows, my mentor Cynthia Hellyer Heinz, my advisors Jason Goode and Kim Volmer, and various alumni members we have met over the course of the program. Most of the advice pertains to time management and setting priorities. One notable strategy I have learned came from Dr. Kenneth Chessick. He explained how he organized his daily activities into A’s, B’s, and C’s so that the most important ones are completed first (A’s) and the ones that are the least important (C’s) don’t take precedence. This simple organization strategy really helped me get my daily priorities straight so that I could be more productive and manage time efficiently.

I have learned an immense amount about leadership, the importance of social relationships with your peers and coworkers, organization skills, and time management over the course of the McKearn Research Program. It has been a challenge to manage my schedule and get my priorities straight. I want to give everything my all, from meeting various alumni members to creating my illustrations. I’ve learned that the results or products of my research are important, but the relationships I’ve made and advice I have been given are more invaluable. I have been given the opportunity to learn from the best and brightest: Mr. and Mrs. McKearn and many other successful Alumni members of Northern Illinois University, the faculty of the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning, and my mentor Cynthia Hellyer Heinz. I am proud of the accomplishments I have made during this program, which include the knowledge I have gained through my research, the relationships I have built between my cohorts, faculty members, alumni members, and myself, and the vast amount of wisdom I have gained from everyone I have met through this program. I am immeasurably grateful. As the program is coming to an end, I hope I can conclude my time here with a successful research and artistry project and the confidence to share it with everyone.


Leadership Lessons

During this past week, we had the privilege of discussing The Leadership Challenge and what it means to be a leader with Dino Martinez, Assistant Director of Leadership and Student Organizational Services, Student Involvement, & Leadership Development. There were five basic practices of which we discussed in detail: Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart. Of these practices, I realized that I find “Enable Others to Act” the most challenging to actually execute. This particular practice has a lot to do with creating an environment of trust and delegation. Although I would consider myself a trustworthy person, I find it hard to trust others. I’m sure we have all had one or two experiences with group projects, whether it be in middle school, high school, or college, where you felt you had to do everything yourself. In many, many cases I did, and most of the time I “delegated” most of the work to myself. Unfortunately, I have had too many bad experiences with group projects, and they have led me to be a little less trusting of others.

Now I have learned the error of my ways. Creating an environment of trust involves trusting your group members to do their part as well as making sure they can trust you. No one is going to trust you if you don’t trust them and vice versa. So, the leader is the one who initiates trust first and encourages others to trust him or her. This is one leadership skill that I am working on. I am also working on being able to delegate. Since I have not been very trusting, I’ve had the habit of “delegating” most tasks to myself. However, delegation is a very important aspect of being a good leader. We all learn and grow through experiences that have been delegated to us. Many people have trusted me and delegated me to complete a task that gave me experience to move forward. Therefore, in order to be the best leader I can be, I must learn the ability to delegate tasks appropriately as well as learn to be more trusting. I have come to this understanding after our discussion with Dino Martinez last week, and to him I am very grateful. I am also very grateful for my mentor, my McKearn fellows, and the many excursions and workshops for giving me the opportunity to improve and grow as a leader. I have grown so much because of this program, and to everyone who has made this opportunity possible, thank you.


Lorado Taft Retreat!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with my McKearn Fellows and cohorts from the Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) and Research Experiences for Undergraduates program (REU) at the Lorado Taft retreat. We slept in bunk beds, participated in workshops, ate home cooked meals, toasted smores, hiked trails, played games, and avoided mosquitoes.  Of all of the things we accomplished over the weekend, one experience was the most memorable for me. On our trip, I got the opportunity to walk through the trails of the White Pines Forest State Park. When one gets a little stressed and needs to reflect and think, many people would choose to take a walk. Well, I thoroughly enjoyed the time to walk amongst the beautiful trees, hear the sounds of the flowing river, and breathe in the fresh air. I really, really wished I had brought my camera with me! Nature provides me with a lot of inspiration, and walking through the forest helped me clear my thoughts and get inspired. I was able to reflect on my research experiences so far and think about what is ahead of me.

While I hiked through the trails, I realized one very significant fact. When you are conducting research or creating a piece of artwork, it is important to step away, take a breath, and relax once in a while. I’ve learned that your mind works best when you can think clearly and look at things from multiple perspectives. Stepping back, clearing your mind, and coming back to your work with a new perspective is a very good thing. When I’ve allowed myself to relax and get rid of stress I’ll be able to be more productive and accomplish my goals. This will be an important part of my leadership style because as a leader I will have to know when to step back, take a breath, and look at any situation with a new perspective. When working with group members, it will be important to know when we all need to step back and relax. A good balance between working on various important tasks and taking a moment to relax is needed when a group is working on a large project, and a leader needs to be able to facilitate that balance. I would not have come to this realization without my experiences at the Lorado Taft retreat, and I am grateful to the people who made my experiences possible. Thank you!


My Research Project

With the support of the McKearn Summer Fellows Program, I will create a set of pieces of artwork that visually reflects and comments on my investigation of three psychological and personality disorders, Dissociative Identity Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, and Bipolar Disorder, on an anatomical and physiological level. Although extensive research has been conducted on these disorders, there is a very minimal number of visual representations of these disorders. Visual descriptions are an important part of our world for learning and communication. Art therapy has allowed patients to express themselves and their emotions, and it has also given us an avenue to start to learn and better understand psychiatric disorders. I hope to provide a visual avenue for people to learn about Dissociative Identity Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, and Bipolar Disorder on an anatomical and physiological level as well as understanding the overall picture about them.

Divided Minds and Successive Selves, written by Jennifer Radden, has been a very informative book about Dissociative Identity Disorder. Although the book was published in 1996, this source has provided invaluable information about the concept of multiplicity and explains its connection to Dissociative Identity Disorder. It uses the term ‘multiple’ to refer to the person who has or is suffering from the dissociative disorder. It explains various aspects of the disorder including forms of awareness, experiences ‘multiples’ face, coconsciousness, and therapy. These concepts presented in this book have helped me understand this condition. I am also indebted to many other sources including the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and I greatly appreciate the guidance and support from my mentor Cynthia Hellyer-Heinz and the McKearn Fellows Program.


Ethics, blog post #3

During this past week’s activities with guest speakers and our trip to Nanophase, the topic of ethics was discussed. My understanding of ethics may be different from another person’s, but I would define ethics as moral principles that we use to determine right from wrong in various aspects of our lives, from work to family to how we treat others. Ethics is an important part of our lives as citizens, neighbors, friends, and family; in addition, ethics is a crucial part of any workforce. From doctors to business men and women, veterinarians to psychiatrists, and game designers to medical illustrators, we all have a responsibility to abide by ethical guidelines that will direct our decisions and interactions with one another to ensure integrity, honesty, fairness, accuracy, and safety.

Ethical practices are a very important aspect in the field of Illustration, especially for Medical Illustration. Artists must ensure they do not plagiarize another’s work, and uphold professional scholarship. Artists must navigate through their careers dealing with issues involving copyright, use of references, sources for inspiration, being clear and straightforward about what they are providing their clients, commitments to their work, and creditability. There is not a definitive line drawn dictating what is right and what is wrong for every situation. Therefore, as artists, we must abide by ethical principles and ensure that for everyone involved communication is open and clear, rights are negotiated, agreed upon, and clearly stated, expectations are clearly identified, and all commitments are met to the best ability of all persons involved.

As described by the Association of Medical Illustrators, medical illustrators collaborate with scientists, physicians, and other content specialists to serve as visual translators of complex technical information to support education, medical and bio-scientific research, patient care, patient education, public relations, and marketing objectives ( They must have a strong foundation in general, biological, and medical science as well as be accomplished in a wide range of art methods and media production skills. Content and anatomical accuracy is paramount in the field of medical illustration, and images are designed to communicate specific content. Given these expectations and demands of the medical illustration field, ethics is an undeniably crucial part of the practices of medical illustrators.

During my fellowship research and throughout my academic and professional career, I will abide by ethical principles and uphold research and academic integrity. I will cite all sources used to gain a thorough background on my topic of research and any images used as reference or inspiration. I will not take credit for another’s work, and I will give credit to those that it is due. I will be as accurate and clear as possible with my images to best communicate the content that I am researching. At all times, throughout my research and my life, I will act responsibly, ethically, and morally. These are my values, and I will carry them throughout my life.


Blog Post #2

The etiquette training and lunch was an interesting experience. I was nervous about the planned activities before we began our travel on the bus. I was not familiar with proper business etiquette before our training, and I felt really out of my element. I felt more at ease as the lunch progressed because I realized that we all had come to learn and that there wasn’t any expectation of being perfect right then and there. I felt a lot calmer when the alumni admitted that they still needed to practice proper business etiquette too. I felt very humble, and I was very appreciative of the knowledge that was shared by the alumni members and Liz Bockman.

I really enjoyed meeting Liz Bockman, Joseph Matty, Dave Hewson, and Howard Blietz. Although I was nervous, they did make me feel welcome, and they provided invaluable advice. I am very grateful, and I’d like to thank them for their time and advice. I now feel fairly confident that I know what to expect and how to be prepared for my academic and professional life. I feel I now have a better understanding of the proper way to interact with other professionals in a dining/banquet setting and any other social setting. I also have a better understanding of expected attire for such interactions as well. Overall, I feel more confident and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.