Thinking Hands: COS PhDs Draw Their Research
Posted September 30 2016
For a number of PhD fellows from the LGFG Research Training Group at the COS, CellNetworks member Annika Guse and spokesperson Steffen Lemke organized an extraordinary workshop that helps young scientists communicate their research to the public more easily. The Thinking Hands Design workshop uses a collaborative painting method to illustrate their specific research aspects in the field of molecular biology.

The result of the workshop is an illustration called HOW TO CONQUER THE WORLD. The drawings show the individual research projects of the PhD fellows, but they also explain how these projects are linked together: Under the title Evolutionary Novelty and Adaptation – From Molecules to Organisms, the scientists of the LGFG Research Training Group are examining various aspects of evolutionary biology employing state-of-the-art molecular tools and imaging technology as well as field research.


To see the full visual, please click on the picture


Explaining their projects to a broader public is hard. Nevertheless, communicating science, both in- and outside academia, is inevitable. It helps create networks, gain funding, increase awareness etc. Design researcher Dr. Stephanie Guse, who has been leading the workshop together with the illustrator Katrin Funcke, thinks that science communication is divided into two worlds: papers and presentations for experts versus mostly unreliable formats of popular science such as TV shows or science slams – both lack a common language for a fruitful exchange with the public.  


THINKING HANDS wants to change that: “The idea of these workshops is that the group not only illustrates a shared topic”, says Stephanie Guse. “The participants are encouraged to intervene into the drawings of the others by adding further details or explanations. The result is a narrative visual that unites details and possibilities of joint knowledge.” The participants were surprised by the positive effect the workshop had on working together as a team as well as on their individual research. “We were really forced to focus on the core questions of our work”, said Atalay Tok from the Lemke lab. “That can be quite difficult since you are so often busy with tiny details.” But clear messages and a certain level of abstraction are important to be heard outside the expert community.


The workshop was the first of a new format for science communication Stephanie Guse wants to follow up upon. “We discovered that THINKING HANDS is beneficial for scientists; it creates an empathetic communication in the team and values the individual contributions for the joint research topic”, she adds. In the future, she would like to take her project one step further by creating a library of visualized research which connects different research topics and puts them into a transdisciplinary context.



Dr. Annika Guse

Centre for Organismal Studies

Im Neuenheimer Feld 230

69120 Heidelberg

Phone +49 6221 54-6264

Email annika.guse [ aT ] 


Dr. Stephanie Guse

(in cooperation with “Brainds”/Vienna)


Phone +43 1 714 8161

Email stephanie.guse [ aT ]