Allison Bruce has a wonderful job: she spends all day making pictures for scientists.
Bruce started out in science herself, earning a chemistry degree from UC Davis. After college, she worked in an environmental lab, but she didn't enjoy it and turned to art classes "to keep from losing my mind," she says. She'd always drawn, but never pursued it as a career until a friend suggested she apply for a temporary position as an artist at Genentech, the bay area's biotech behemoth.
That was 18 years ago, and now Bruce is a Senior Graphics Specialist at Genentech. "It's a lot of fun," she says. "It's really cutting-edge what they do here." She gets to learn about research before it's even published, translating brand-new knowledge about the world from words into pictures.
The detail can be exquisite, as in an illustration of the eye's blood vessel growth (above), which shuttled back and forth many times between Bruce and the researcher to make sure each line was accurate. The result is an eerily beautiful representation of sickness and health.
Bruce's favorite projects, though, are journal covers, because they offer more flexibility to play around. To illustrate the action of trastuzumab, a breast-cancer drug, she enlisted her nephew's help to cartoonify a cell, complete with classic ZAP! and POW!.