biology-tattoo

tattoo ?

So I’ve really been wanting a science-y tattoo. At first, I wanted Darwin’s tree of life, but that could be hard to cover up. Especially since I wanted it on my wrist.

But I recently saw someone who just had Darwin’s “I think” on his arm and I really liked it. Obviously I want it in Darwin’s quilled script, so it has the connection to biology, but it can have so much more meaning than a tree sketch. I think (haha) that it could be very helpful to me in grad school, reminding me why I’m interested and also maybe help me combat imposter syndrome (I deserve to be here because I think, and I think in ways that other people don’t, blah blah blah)


I’m dying in the library right now (writing a paper for my evolution seminar; yes there’s definitely irony here) and I sketched it out with a sharpie. What do you guys think? Should I get it?

ATP molecule- an essential molecule for a vast array of metabolic processes in organisms. Ultimately, it is one of the things essential to life. ATP is manufactured from the food we eat- the micro and macro world are intimately connected. Also, I love hummingbird moths :) Tattoo by Jessa Huebing-Reitinger- she does amazing work with insects and other nature-related things

My tattoo shows a T4 virus on my shoulder infecting my back with DNA that has RNA messages being densely transcribed off of it. There is then a zoom in on the enzymatic process doing the work of transcription on the molecular level, showing an RNA polymerase processing up the DNA double helix, and the newly transcribed RNA that is winding out of the complex. It is inspired by the old Transmission Electron Micrographs of transcribing rRNA genes, as bacteriophage viral genes are at least as strongly transcribed in early infection, and David Goodsell’s classic drawing of an RNA polymerase in his magnificent book, The Machinery of Life.
The arrows around the magnifying glass represent an operon level transcription map of a phage that I made with single nucleotide resolution as part of my doctoral work. (with the frame slightly obscured because the data is, at least previously, unpublished)

This is the first image of the DNA molecule every produced via x-ray crystallography. The image was obtained by Rosalind Franklin, a crystallographer whose work was then used by Watson and Crick to piece together the double-helical structure of DNA. They won the nobel prize while Franklin did not get credit for her work until years after her death. This image was the beginning of modern genetics and molecular biology as we know it.

The information that this image has provided has created entire fields of study that no one would have predicted 70 years ago. Research in cell, developmental, and molecular biology can all be traced back to this image, “Photo 51”. I study developmental biology and how transcriptional enhancers coordinate gene expression during development, and certainly manipulate DNA daily. This image encapsulates a piece of what I love about biology. This image will never change because it is a piece of history. Understanding the gendered power dynamics behind its publication also resonates with me as I too am a woman working in a male-dominated field. 

The tattoo is placed on my ribcage, made entirely of dots. Artist is Jared Leathers from Spiral Tattoo in Ann Arbor, MI.

I’m a person who gets worked up about pretty irrelevant things really quick, so I wanted a tattoo that says something like “calm down, keep your inner peace, it isn’t worth all the energy you’re putting into it”. And since I really like science-themed tattoos, I thought Serotonin is a good choice :) I wanted jaunty colours and the molecules to be sketchy because I’m a brisk person :)

Made by Sandy @ Heaven Of Colours, Zwickau