By Margaret Combs
The Gryphon – Fall 2005
Emily Shaw ’94 was in the midst of her studies at Johns Hopkins University two years ago when she received an urgent page from the Baltimore Aquarium. Four sea dragons had died in captivity, a trend that veterinarians were ar a loss to explain. Shaw rushed over to retrieve the specimens, took them back to her studio, and proceeded to make biological history. After dissecting the sea dragons, she produced the world’s first illustration of sea dragon anatomy, a critical step toward understanding the animal’s demise. Her drawing is now referenced by marine biologists and veterinarians at both the Baltimore Aquarium and the Marine Biology Center at the University of Maryland College Park.
“I love the fact that I can take my artistic training and do something incredibly useful,” said Shaw, who completed a master’s degree in medical and biological illustration at Johns Hopkins Medical School in 2003. “Creating scientific illustrations is like being a visual teacher. It’s my job to simplify complex information so it can be grasped and understood by a broad audience.”
Shaw is now a full-time medical illustrator, 3-D animator, and product education specialist at Laerdal DC, a Washington D.C. branch of an international company based in Norway. Laerdal is best known for its CPR training mannequins such as “Resussi Annie.”
The first inkling that she would make a career out of her drawing talent and her interest in biology occurred at CSW, according to Shaw. Specifically, she remembers coming home one day from Marilyn DelDonno’s zoology class.