Juggling art, design and science

Armin Mortazavi, @armin.scientoonist
Cartoonist Armin Mortazavi lives at the intersection of storytelling and education. His bachelor’s degree in Microbiology and Immunology from UBC (BSc ‘14) and master’s from the Centre for Digital Media enable him to combine his love for science and the arts.
  • Armin Mortazavi
  • BSc ‘14

Were you always interested in cartooning?

I’ve always loved science and art. What got me interested in science were things like The Magic School Bus and Bill Nye, not textbooks. I also adored Spongebob Squarepants, Fairly Odd Parents and comic strips like Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side. I loved cartoons. The drawings were simple, but the messages were complex. With a few lines, and by arranging panels differently, you can tell a whole story.

What are SciCATS?

I met epidemiologist Jennifer Gardy and she wanted to make a resource to help grad students improve their science communications skills. She liked the cats I drew, so we made resources that were illustrated to tell students how to become better communicators.

You created a web comic called The Adventures of Patoo for the new BC curriculum. What was that like?

That was the first project I had after graduating with my master’s degree. It was challenging. I worked together with a programmer and we had to talk with researchers, teachers and many other stakeholders to make an online comic to improve the health literacy of children. No one had done anything at that scale before. I realized that it’s hard to communicate with people outside of your field. You develop jargon that only you and a few others understand, and you have to work to present it better.

I worked on it for two years and it’s now online. It’s awesome seeing the reaction from the kids. I love the intersection of art, storytelling and education.

So you’re with the UBC Faculty of Medicine now.

Yes, I’m with the continuing professional development team. I create illustrations and interactive courses for primary care providers. Essentially, my job is to make learning less boring for doctors and nurses.

What do you do in your spare time?

I’m really passionate about mental health. I make short vlogs about my experiences with depression and anxiety, and I post them on my YouTube channel TheScientoonist. I’m also making a 2D video game about vampires and werewolves; but that’s a story for another day.

Find Armin at www.instagram.com/armin.scientoonist/