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University of Glasgow medical student makes learning anatomy a feast for the senses

Areo Oli_Mike McCormick_560

If you've ever heard the phrase "you are what you eat" and playfully wondered which part of you is composed of coffee and sweets, take a peek at the gallery of artwork called CandyAnatomy. These candy creations are the work of Mike McCormick, a medical student at the University of Glasgow. Recently, I reached out to McCormick to learn more about his inventive works of art and how they came to be. Here's what he had to say.

How did CandyAnatomy begin?

CandyAnatomy was born out of the realization that I could be as nerdy as I wanted and the only repercussion was that it might make me a better doctor. [While getting] my previous degree, Physiology (Hons) at the University of Edinburgh, I’m pretty sure I would be laughed out of town for being so embarrassing, but medicine rewards absorbing as much information as you can. I would draw muscles, nerves and blood supply with a sharpie on my arm; convert anything I could to mimic a biological system; and candy was just so full of possibilities that would also make tasty snacks!

Do your creations help you learn the material you study in medical school, or does the art serve another purpose?

Yes, the creations do make it easier for me to learn the subject. I take time to consider what sweets most resemble the cells or structures in question; this helps me remember. Good examples might be the Aero Bubbles, whose high surface area resembles alveoli, or using a jelly snake to remind me about serpentine receptors.

Why did you choose to use candy in your artwork? Do you have a sweet tooth?

Ha, ha - honestly I'm a child of two dentists, so candy is probably forbidden! But... I’m showing candy can be used for something other than eating, so perhaps that’s setting a better example from a dental perspective! I actually just use the candy because the colors make for a very vibrant image, people want to eat them, and because I don’t actually eat them they will last longer before they go out of date. I’ve used a little SavouryAnatomy, but it doesn’t last very long!

What inspired the artwork (featured above) "Aero-Oli"?

I had been searching for an idea to detail the site of gaseous exchange. We had been doing a few weeks of respiratory anatomy and pathology, and I didn’t just want to produce two lungs out of candy, as it’s not very eye-catching. When shopping, I spotted the Aero Bubbles and I just had to [use them]. I like this image because it explores the structure [at different magnifications, much] like switching the power of a microscope. It shows the smooth muscle around the bronchioles that play an important role in asthma, and it also details the capillary network (surrounding the alveoli) that oxygenates the blood and removes waste products.

Thinking about your future, what area of medicine are you planning to pursue?

In the future I'm considering becoming a surgeon because I like working with my hands, dissecting and learning anatomy. However, pediatrics might be another alternative as clearly CandyAnatomy would be a good way to explain medical situations to children.

Previously: Image of the Week: A playful take on the human respiratory systemImage of the Week: VeggieanatomyImage of the Week: Quilled anatomyKitchen anatomy: Brain carved from a watermelon and Virtual dissection table helps teach human anatomy
Via Laughing Squid
Artwork courtesy of Mike McCormick

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