When he isn’t researching how stem cells can repair heart damage, graduate student Ben Paylor dabbles in animation.
“Dabbles,” however, does not quite do it justice. After all, he is the co-founder and director of InfoShots, an animation studio.
But unlike many Renaissance men, he has managed to unite both interests.
The Stem Cell Network, based at the University of Ottawa, commissioned his studio to produce a three-part series of short videos explaining basic concepts in stem cell research. The videos, each of them narrated by a prominent Canadian stem cell scientist, are launching online this fall.
Paylor, a fourth-year PhD candidate in Experimental Medicine, created the animation studio in Vancouver with Mike Long, when they were working together in the lab of Professor Fabio Rossi, in the Department of Medical Genetics. (Dr. Long earned his PhD at UBC in 2011, and is now a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto.)
“Animation is an excellent medium for explaining complex topics in a very simple and engaging manner and was ideal for a project of this nature. Being able to secure such prestigious narrators through the Stem Cell Network was the icing on the cake,” says Paylor, a 2012/13 Action Canada fellow and enthusiastic science communicator.
For Paylor and Long, the work is far from complete. They recently received a second award from the Stem Cell Network and matching funds from the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation to produce a five more videos, to be released in the spring of 2014.
Further out, InfoShots, which has also produced animation videos for iPhone apps and a bankruptcy consulting firm, aspires to use animation to explain scientific papers, grants and the research of individual labs.