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Pumpkin Jobs: Stanford med student’s carving tricks – a real treat!

It's obvious why Amy Ladd, MD, professor of orthopaedic surgery, sees the potential in Raymond Tsai. The third-year medical student from Northridge, Calif., is a whiz with sharp objects. And, Halloween pumpkins. He carved his first one in 2006—a portrait of Steve Irwin, the croc hunter. Two years ago at the annual first-year student pumpkin-carving extravaganza, he blew away classmates with a carved rendition of Michael Jackson. Tsai's latest Jack-o'-lantern masterpiece pays homage to the late Apple co-founder and creative genius Steve Jobs.

Tsai starts his process by finding a photo of the carvee that has well-defined value contrasts. From the photo he makes a template, then heads off to scour the pumpkin patch. "I'm picky about my pumpkins," he explains. "It has to be big enough to fit my template, and its shape needs to be oblong to fit the face. The tricky part is finding one without the deep grooves."

For the Jobs job, Tsai spent almost two hours surveying the pumpkin's terrain. The actual carving took about three and a half hours. "I focus on the most defining characteristics," he says. "The beard and the straight-on gaze were the don't-screw-up bits." He did cut off one nostril by accident, but said it didn't make a notable difference. As soon as the last detail is carved, the entire pumpkin gets bathed in bleach to keep it fresh. Occasional spritzes are applied PRN. "Steve Irwin got moldy really quickly, so I went online and read that bleach helps slows down decomposition."

Now that he's finished with his seasonal gourd carving, he's looking forward to his upcoming rotation in internal medicine and to his duties as Speaker of the AMA Medical Student Section. He also seems like a likely candidate to join forces with the folks featured on Science Friday's recent video pick.

Photo courtesy of Raymond Tsai

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