SFI Postdoctoral Fellow Anna Guerrero (image: Maria Guerrero)

From illustrations to diagrams to photographs, images help scientists record their observations and communicate their findings. Those images often spark new theories or research questions which, in turn, are captured through new images. 

Complexity Postdoctoral Fellow Anna Guerrero recently completed her Ph.D. in biology from Arizona State University. She uses a historical and philosophical lens to document how biologists use that concept-to-image cycle to learn about the physical world. Guerrero is also an accomplished scientific illustrator whose exhibits have been on display at the Harvard Forest Fisher Museum and the Marine Biological Laboratory.

“Every image, even a scientific image, is shaped by the choices scientists make, and those choices are shaped by past images,” she says. “Learning about choices scientists made in the past can help us understand the choices scientists make in the present, and help them make better choices going forward.” At SFI, she plans to approach her research through a more quantitative lens, eventually building software that can help researchers study the interplay between concepts and images in biology. “This final product would be applicable to any research question involving roles of images in complex systems,” she says. Guerrero joined SFI in July.