Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET)


My name is Robert Soto and I am an Illustration major. At the start of the spring semester of 2013 I was hunting for an internship with a scientific institution. I was determined to get experience working with scientists of any kind to produce illustrations that would tell me if I had what it takes to make Paleo reconstructions for a living. After a few weeks of emailing various parks and institutions with no luck I spoke to a professor of mine who had told us that he started out doing nature illustrations for a Marine research lab here in Maryland. I asked if could point me in the right direction for an internship or make an introduction and within a few days I had a meeting with Dr. Al Place atIMET and was given the opportunity to be the first scientific illustration intern they have had. I was hired before I even walked through the door, Al had a lot of respect for my professor work and knew the advantages to having a scientific illustrator on the team.

The Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) is a joint University of Maryland institute that draws form the scientific community in Maryland. The scientists at IMET conduct marine and environmental research tocreate technologies designed protect and restore coastal marine systems and their watersheds as well as sustainable use of their resources and improvement of human health. The projects I was involved in had to do with assessing the health of a specific ecosystem as well as marine biomedicine.

I was very proud to be able to produce an illustration diagraming the digestive system of an Atlantic Menhaden, which did not exist previously. I was given the chance to go on a sample collection trip with a team out into the Chesapeake Bay to observe how they collect specimens and data. Because the internship was designed by myself, it was up to me to find the projects that could benefit from a professional illustration. I was given opportunities and resources but it was up to me to make something of my time there and benefit from being around working biologists.

This internship with IMET was more beneficial to my career then I ever imagined. I was not only given the chance to produce illustrations that were used in papers and presentations but made contacts in scientific and artistic circles. It was exactly the kind of hands on experience I was looking for. I grew as an artist and developed a discipline for research and the study of specimens living and dead. Being an intern at IMET has confirmed my eagerness to work in the Scientific Illustration industry, tested my resolve and work ethic and rewarded my efforts with the foundation of a real career. This internship gave me confidence and showed me a successful, professional version of myself.

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