MLR writes: “The Tree of Life—carbon, glucose, light, DNA, and the golden rectangle. A tattoo by Kevin Riley. On the chest of a PhD student in molecular biology.”
“I am an immunologist, and a second-generation biologist; my mother was a cell biologist (she passed away from brain cancer, which influenced my choice of career). I find DNA to be elegant; the code is so simple, and yet capable of enormous complexity. So I had my artist make a stylized DNA double-helix for me. The two double-stranded breaks don’t bother me; adaptive immune cells have those as part of normal development. “
Troy writes that he got his tattoo “as a post-doctoral fellow studying protein folding. The tattoo is sort of a telescoping view of the contents in a cell (many contents omitted, obviously). This came about from a very vague idea of something I wanted, and the artist (Chris Adamek, Immortal Ink, Clinton, NJ) really ran with it. He has no scientific training but came up with some really amazing artwork. He was so enthusiastic and wanted to know all about what it all meant and how it works. I enjoyed the experience of sitting with him for three days as much as I enjoy the result. The DNA doesn’t code for anything (at least not intentionally).”
Mike writes, “I know that I’m supposed to provide some sort of explanation, but I feel like everyone can probably tell that this is DNA. Every once in awhile someone will ask what’s on my arm, in which case I respond that it’s a futuristic staircase. Then they stare quizzically and I laugh.”
Therese writes, “I teach molecular and cell biology at a University in Atlanta. Many of my students have commented on the tatoo, I think they think it makes me ‘cool.’ Haha!”
“Hey there Carl,”My tattoo is from an Irving Geis illustration of DNA. I was attracted to his attention to the molecular detail while also drawing in a representational spiral that doesn’t ignore the basic beauty of the double helix.
“This particular sequence (I’ve BLASTED) is too short to be specific to only one gene, but one human gene it’s found it is the 5′ UTR of one of our tight junctions.
“Pat Fish in Santa Barbara, CA did it for me with great skill.”
-Matthew MacDougall, 4th year medical student
“I chose at the time to not go for the 101-straight defined double-helix , as DNA is such a dynamic entity, zipping and unzipping and playing host to some many other molecules and with all it’s binding domains, that I wanted it to be different in different places.” –Steve O’Grady
Kristin writes, “This was a graduation present to myself. It came to me during a genetics lecture and I got it done 3 years later. It goes ankle to mid thigh. I’m a geneticist now and LOVE it. Genetics stole my heart. P.s. It codes for a snippet of an exon from the sonic the hedgehog gene.”
“In a former life i graduated with bs’s in microbiology and zoology. i worked for a short time as a lab monkey in a plant path lab doing microscopy. someday, if/when i find my brain again, i intend go to gradual school and do something with molecular biology. before i graduated, i committed my love of biology to ink and flesh….it is representative not only of my interest in genetics, but it also contains my and my husband’s initials. (awwwwww)
interestingly enough, just last night i posted on my own blog about the history of my current ink and the prospects for future tats. i haven’t figured out what they will be yet, but there will be at least three more (or one large one). p.s. do you know how hard it is to take a picture of the side of one’s own ankle while holding said appendage off the ground so no one can see my dirty kitchen floor in the background?”
This is how the Emporium was born. Last summer I was at a pool party where a friend, Bob Datta, was bobbing around in the water with his kids. Datta is a post-doc at Columbia, where he studies genes in Drosophila flies. I noticed that Bob had a tattoo of DNA on his shoulder. At first I thought it was a generic snippet of the molecule, but then Bob told me that it actually represents, in the genetic code, his wife’s initials: EEE. Geek love in its noblest form.
Bob’s tatoo reminded me that I have seen other scientists festooned with their science. There was the mycologist whose arms were covered with a black mesh, which he explained to me was subterranean network of threads produced by the death cap mushroom. And then there was the developmental biologist whose arm is swathed in the image of the fish he studies. (He declined my request for a photo of the tattoo until he gets tenure.)
So I wondered–had I bumped into the tip of a vast hidden iceberg, or do I just happen to know the few scientists with tattoos of their science? I put out a call, and the answer was an emphatic yes. For months now, I’ve gotten dozens upon dozens of examples, and an astonishing number of visitors who want to see them. After trying out a few different formats, I’ve now made the Emporium their home.
If anyone wants to send me a jpg, I’ll post it. If you’re worried about tenure, just let me know how the tattoo represents the object of your study. The more personal the link, the better (i.e., not a generic tattoo of pi).
P.S. Bob later added a technical clarification: “I knew someone in this crowd would ask about the 12 bases but three codons thing! So, 3 codons don’t give you two turns (wanted to approximate real DNA dimensions), so I needed at least four codons, all of which in this case are E (the single letter code for glutamate). E translates into GAG or GAA (I went with GAG GAA GAG GAA for variety), and used the colors green for G and amber for A. The complementary bases were coded C=Cyan and T=Tomato Red (ok, a bit of a stretch). So, you can see from the left – following one strand – Green Amber Green Green Amber Amber, etc.
My wife’s first name is Eliza, and is known affectionately as Li, so I’m thinking seriously of getting a second tattoo (the first was her engagement present to me in exchange for the ring) of a Bohr model of a lithium atom. Helps too that we have two kids (so 1 Li + 1 Theo + 1 Jasper = 3). ”