ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Erica Flores has spent her career studying science but has always had a hidden passion for art. Now, she’s combining biology and art to bridge the gap between the two disciplines.

Originally from South Carolina, Flores studied biology and music for her undergraduate degree and plays the violin, guitar and piano. She was in the orchestra program at the College of Charleston before the program lost funding. “It was such an important part of my life, and definitely gave me better focus and drive,” Flores said.

Flores received her master’s degree in biology and worked in developmental biology before switching over to something focused in medical research. That switch is what brought her and her husband to Albuquerque over a year ago. Flores now works at the University of New Mexico and studies cancer therapy.

Ever since she was a child, Flores carried drawing with her as a hobby. When she got into college, she had to devote her time to her studies and eventually lost touch with the art. A year and a half ago is when things started changing for Flores when she started following scientists on social media who would illustrate what they were studying. “I realize notice there’s a big gap between the knowledge of researchers and how that relates to the general public because a lot of what we do does relate to the general public,” Flores said.

She said COVID-19 has the best and most recent example of using illustrations to connect information to the public. The most recognizable image of the COVID-19 virus of the red ball with the spikes coming out of it is a medical illustration made by an artist. “Now that’s an image that every single person knows and recognizes. So I think it’s very important especially with communication in the field of communicating information to the public and now just with other scientists,” Flores said.

With this being a relatively new venture for her, Flores has already designed figures and images used in a scientific research paper and hopes to continue collaborating with other scientists to do similar designing and illustrating. For fun, she often gravitates towards drawing deep-sea creatures, which is how she got her business name Celestial Whale Studio.

She’s had her art shown in the OT Circus Gallery and her social media, which is where she gets most of her commissions from. Flores hopes to continue expanding within art and science and focus on doing conservation work and educational materials. “My big goal is to make science fun and interesting and beautiful,” Flores said.