E : Happy International Women’s Day!
N: Thank you, what a great day to do this interview!
E: Who are you and what do you do?
N: I’m Nina and I run the account @Nina.draws.scientists. Currently I am in the Midlands but (excitingly) soon I will be heading to Toronto (with work). Toronto is somewhere I have always wanted to move to, so after I applied for the visa I just decided to go! I am currently packing furiously. My day time job is as a medical writer for pharma companies. It’s … more educational material for healthcare professionals. I sort of like it?
E: and how did you get into that? It’s not something I had considered!
N: I originally wanted a science writing job but it was quite difficult to find a communications role. I ended up falling into this writing because it is science communication but just for big companies. I managed to get it through networking and attending different groups. You realise there is this whole world of science writing! It is a really big industry and I am quite surprised that not many people know about it (because I didn’t either)!
E: I have loved following your account and have connected with many incredible people over it! So, I am interested in what encouraged you to start “Nina Draws Scientists” and what keeps you going?
N: I originally started this account a while back and it was purely drawing scientists. It was my way of finding out about the scientists and their lives and at the time I just really loved art (although I was terrible at it!). There was one day though that, for some reason, my account locked me out and I lost absolutely everything! Although it wasn’t a very good account, there were only around three hundred followers on it …
E: That’s devastating though, losing all that work!
N: Yes! I was really upset about it and I remember going home for Christmas and my brother said to me “you’re being silly, it’s just instagram! There is no point in getting upset about it, just start another one!”. That was a bit of tough love, but it pushed me to start Nina Draws Scientists. When I first started this, I realised that I actually found women’s stories a little more interesting and I could relate to their stories. Rather than my previous account, where I was drawing people such as Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein and felt, well everyone knows about them! I made the decision to focus on women. At first I started drawing historical women, then I had a realisation that there was a need to promote more contemporary women in science. It was through discovering accounts of women in science that I found this gap. I think the first account I found was @soph.talks.science and she really welcomed me into the community. It has just snowballed from there!
I think, what keeps me going, is the creative growth aspect of the account. If you look back at my first posts, I was using pencil and the pictures were … okay but I think looking back now I appreciate that my style has really developed in the past year. I have learned so much in terms of how to paint and how to build my own style. So, there is that aspect that I am very proud of. It is a fantastic creative outlet, for me.
The responses that I get on the account too, really motivate me! It is nice to hear the comments and see that people are enjoying discovering new accounts and other scientists, that is a huge aspect of why I continue the account. Also, it’s enabled me to meet other people (like you!) it is so nice to connect with people from all over the world. At the moment, I have started to sort of put my foot down and say I have to interview you before I draw you. There is a functional aspect, because you get to see someone, how they move and what their personality is like. It’s also very nice just to chat and find out a bit more about people!
E: I really enjoy the instagram community for this reason too! There are so many incredible people out there that I find I have a lot in common with!
N: You can really connect with people, from all over the world!.
E: You were talking a little about finding your own flare, is there something in particular that helped you to find that flare or was it just practice, practice, practice?
N: I think it was really just a lot of practice! Most times, when I did these “competitions”, it was a promise that I will post every single day. Having to draw a lot in an intense amount of time really helped. Having an interest in art really helps, going to exhibitions and seeing what other people are doing. Watching tutorials online also really helps to improve!
E: You speak a lot about diversity on the account and I love that you make a real effort to draw a diverse set of women. Is it something that is very important to you?
N: It really is. I think I have been very conscious to highlight people from underrepresented backgrounds more. I think one thing I don’t do so well, at the moment, is highlighting people in STEM with disability or those that are part of the queer community and these are people I would like to highlight more on my page. My next theme is actually going to be underrepresented in STEM.
I am British, and I was born here, I generally have a diverse set of friends. However, you do sometimes experience stigma and the odd comments. You’ll be out in a pub and someone will ask you “but where are you really from”. To which I always reply well… I am from Rugby. I wish I was from somewhere really exotic, but I am not! I think throughout my life I have had moments like these. More so when I was a younger, I was slightly more aware that I was different. I would feel a little embarrassed, you don’t want to draw attention to yourself and that you are from a different background. So, I think what is very important to me is to celebrate that people are from different places and maybe, not focus on that difference but on the commonality that “you are a scientist” or “you are an engineer” despite these “differences”.
E: If you had to tell me what your absolute favourite thing about starting this account has been, what would that be?
Oh gosh! Definitely meeting so many people! I have had some very humbling moments where I am like “I cannot believe you have decided to talk to me!”
E: Have you had any negativity on instagram?
I am very lucky in that people have been very supportive of my account! In saying that, I am more behind the scenes and I don’t really post about myself (apart from once) so I wonder if I were to do that a little more whether it might (for whatever reason) cause a reaction.
E: That’s really uplifting to hear!
E: There is a lot of talk about self-care in science, STEM can be very stressful! Is there something you do for your own self care?
N: I am rubbish at self-care and relaxing! Which is probably not good for me! I think drawing used to be an outlet for me but now it has become a sort of mini job: where you are committed to regular posts and posting on a certain day. Exercise is probably one thing I try to do more of now and I play the piano! When I play, I have to concentrate so hard that it is quite mindful. It forces me to only think about the music and nothing else. So that is a nice distraction!
E: How do you find balancing your “real life job” with your account becoming, as you said, sort of a mini job?
N: Eh … I don’t! I really have no balance at the moment. I am going to be posting less now, I tried committing to three times a week, but I think it is going to have to end up being twice a week. It takes a long time to draw, about four-six hours minimum. It can become all encompassing, so I have decided to minimise my posts going forward to start making time for the things that make me happy. I miss waking up in the morning, sitting with my coffee and having time to read the news! I will be making more time to do those things from now on.
E: I feel like I have grilled you enough! A few “silly questions now” What is your favourite colour?
N: I am going to be oddly specific here! I really like light green colours, but they have to be slightly greyish?
E: I love how specific that is!
E: Are there any films you have seen recently that you love?
N: Oh my gosh, definitely The Favourite! I went to see it with my mum and we both loved it.
(you should definitely check out Natalie Colman’s Oscar acceptance speech (from the cast of The Favourite) very heartwarming!)
E: If you had to be anyone for the day, who would you be?
N: Can I have two answers for this? If it was someone that has passed, I would definitely go for Rita Levi-Montalcini (I think I have said her name wrong, you can tell I just write and don’t talk to anyone!) she was the oldest living Nobel laureate and in her later years she just looked so fabulous! She looked like she was out living life to the full and having a lot of fun!
Alive I would definitely go for Lucy Worsley (another Brit!) she presents historical shows on the BBC and works at Kensington Palace, so I think it would be quite fun to be her for the day!
E: That is all my questions! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me!
N: This is the first interview that I have done! Thank you for asking me and I am looking forward to reading the other interviews!