Recently, we wrote an article highlighting the prevalence of science-themed tattoos among scientists, and the particular significance these tattoos have among those who choose to get them (https://bitesizebio.com/articles/beneath-the-lab-coat-why-do-scientists-get-inked/). As a follow-up, we reached out to our readers to collect images and stories about their unique, science-themed tattoos.
Some of you were kind enough to share them with us:
Research Interests: Genetics and evolution
About my tattoo: I have a tattoo of two white-throated sparrows on my shoulder. White-throated sparrows have a large chromosomal inversion that influences their behavior, mate choice and plumage coloration. I studied the population genetics of that inversion for my PhD. White-throated sparrows remind me of how much I love science and nature. It brings back memories of graduate school, a time in my life that was filled with curiosity, possibilities and love for knowledge. The tattoo reminds me of why I am a scientist.
Research Interests: Robotocist/Math
About my tattoo: I’m a roboticist, but was a math major when I got the tattoo. The triangle is the first iteration of a Sierpinski triangle, and represents the “3” in pi. The rows of dots (going around clockwise) are the digits in the decimal expansion of pi: 14159… etc. Coincidentally, the 37th digit of pi is 1 again, so it makes the full circuit of the triangle. The rows of dots connected by a line are in the prime number positions i.e. 2,3,5,7,11. There are some fraternity symbols in there too. It is all arranged to look like the “all seeing eye” Illuminati symbol (like on the back of a dollar bill).
Cortical Pyramidal Neurons
Three close friends from a neuroscience PhD program got these tattoos together as a celebration of their time in graduate school. Two of them provided descriptions (below).
Research Interests: Neuroscience
About the tattoos:
- The neuron is a cortical pyramidal neuron from a figure in a paper that describes the benefits of a stimulating environment neural growth. We got the neurons as a symbol of our graduate career and the stimulating and nurturing environment our graduate school, the Neuroscience Program, and my friends/classmates provided during this time. I hope to get another neuron synapsing onto this existing one to represent my postdoc neuroscience experience. And who knows maybe another to celebrate a professorship
- I am interested in how the environment and hormones modulate behavior and physiology. This is a stencil of a Ramon Y Cajal original sketch of a pyramidal neuron. I got it on the same night with two of my best friends from grad school – both as a nerd mark (like Harry Potter’s Scar) as well as a permanent friendship bracelet. It is not only a symbol of the friendships and relationships science has lead me to, but also as a reminder of how simply beautiful nature is.
Research Interest: Mycology
About my tattoo: I worked in a mycology lab in undergrad, but had not yet decided whether I wanted to work on a PhD in herpetology or mycology (I also have a lizard tattoo). I eventually decided on mycology, and somehow accumulated 5 pet turtles and many shiny things along the way. It has a lot of relevance to the body it’s on, and I still love it. I grew up with Mario, I study mushrooms, green is my favorite color, I got it in 8-bit, and it’s good to have an extra life around just in case.
Research Interest: Molecular Biology
About my tattoo: I got the tattoo about 8 years ago with my sister. She came out to visit me and I hadn’t seen her in a couple of years so we decided to get matching DNA tattoos! At the time I was working in a molecular biology lab as a research technician and she is a nurse. I still work in a lab doing stuff with DNA (DNA sequencing etc.) – I have my Master’s in Biology and work as a research assistant in a wildlife disease lab. My sister had a few tattoos already but this was my first one. I really love the structure of DNA, it’s just so elegant, beautiful, and simple. I didn’t want the structure to be too cluttered for the tattoo, I wanted to stick with the backbone but I did add in a couple of circles of color. When my biologist friends see it and I tell them that I have a matching one with my sister they always ask if we’re twins. We aren’t, but we share enough DNA for matching tattoos!
DNA: The Molecule of Life
Research Interest: Neuroscience
About my tattoo: I am currently a PhD Neuroscience student. I did my undergraduate studies in Biology with a focus in biochemistry. I got this DNA tattoo right after I finished my BS to represent what I had spent the last four years studying and what I had hoped to continue working on. The tattoo is meaningful for several reasons. (1) From a more philosophical point of view it is the basis of all life as we know it and it represent the entity that makes us all unique yet all related to one another. A sense of unity if you will. (2) From a more scientific point of view, I spent most of my undergrad studying biology and chemistry and trying to figure out how it all works together. The tattoo starts at the top of my shoulder as a cell with a chromosome. Basically the tattoo shows what it would look like if you took that chromosome and stretched it out. It goes from a chromosome, down to the histones breaking off, to the double stranded DNA molecule, then to the base pairing with hydrogen bonds. It shows all levels (minus atom-atom interaction and string theory!). But all molecular levels of the molecule that defines us all!