Science cover and figures - N2O4 Probed Using High Harmonic Generation

(published Science cover)

(published Science schematic and graph)

(mock up idea for Science cover)

(mock up idea for Science cover)

My art work is on the cover of "Science" (November 21, 2008 issue)! This is my first cover for Science, so I am pretty excited about it. I made several other potential Science covers within the past year, but they didn't get selected (i think they were pretty good one's too which you can find in this blog). Apparently it is a pretty competitive process to get a cover on Science. Anyways... now for the details:

I worked closely with Dr. Wen Li, Fellow Margaret Murnane, and Fellow Henry Kapteyn. I was originally just helping with the experimental schematic figure and the graph figure (the second image), and that expanded to coming up with cover images for Science. The schematic and graph figure was mainly done in Illustrator and I was mainly focusing on making the schematic pretty clear and clean looking so that two images could be group well each other. I am really happy how the schematic and graph figure images tie very closely to the cover imagery of the selected cover. The version in this blog is slightly different than the Science published version, but only a few of the colors were changed. The Science article and the caption text that was publish explains the schematic and graph figure pretty well if you are curious about it.

Covers: Why yes it was a pretty intensive process. It started out pretty simply with the schematic which was really just illustrating and arranging the objects in logical space. The real question next was how to describe the research concepts where the paper was titled "Time-Resolved Dynamics in N2O4 Probed Using High Harmonic Generation". This was a pretty daunting task, but Wen really worked with me and explained some of the core concepts to me. This whole project really turned out to be a really productive team play between me, Wen, Margaret, and Henry. It was the only way this project was really going to succeed. So it all started with Wen making his own sketch to show me some of his ideas. This helped me realize and focus on some of the key visual points for the rest of the project. I was really glad when I saw Wen come in with his own sketch. I usually encourage the people I am working with to sketch anything they can as part of the initial brain storming precess. Some researchers get shy about their drawing skills, but I keep telling them that it will help immensely no matter what they draw. So the brainstorming process went on for a while actually. I would make some mock and test renderings and we would get new ideas and I would try some new objectives. From the start I knew that I would be working in 3D environment, so I mainly used Maya and Photoshop for all the cover images. Working in a 3D environment paided off because it was much easier to make changes and create new variations in 3D package like Maya than if I were to draw/illustrate it.

to keep things short and sweet here, I will write briefly about each of the images in this blog.

The cover that was selected (top image), was showing the molecule N2O4 in two states where one is in an "excited" state (the one closes to front). I thought it would be a good idea to make the connection of these two different states of the N2O4 molecule to the actual data set of the High Harmonic Generation from the vibrating N2O4. Basically I wanted the viewer to be able to see where in the 3D space of the data that molecules were changing during the peaks of the data. The first step was to convert the data from Matlab to a 3d files that I could use to import into the Maya. I have done something similar to this before for PNAS figure and cover, so I passed Wen the matlab script to adapted to this his data. Wen converted the data from Matlab to a .OBJ file and I then imported it into Maya. The next step was to model the N2O4 molecules based on some information Wen provided me. It wasn't too bad to model in Maya (the excited state one was a little bit more complicated b/c the shapes were a little more atypical). After that I did a lot render tests for the lighting, colors, and textures. Then I used photoshop to add the final detail touches.

The other two images were mockups that we submitted to science as well. These images were basically showing the general and simple idea that the N2O4 molecules were being manipulated by several laser beams. They are both similar but one really emphaises how a few N2O4 molecules gets "trapped" in the laser beams amongst a cluster of N2O4 molecules. I thought these turned out pretty well and the main goal was to make a really simple visual concept that would work for a Science Cover. The main goal for all the covers was to show as much of the science as possible without overloading the viewer with too much technical jargon, arrows, and labels. We submitted all three of these as potential covers and the selected the top one because it showed the most science as directly related to the research. I was glad they picked that one because I was pretty attached to it myself. I liked all of them, but that is probably because I get personally attached to my 3D models and line work.

I really enjoyed working with Wen, Margaret, and Henry. I was also interacting with the art director and editors at Science via the phone for this project. They had some very postive comments about my work and efforts which made feel pretty good. I even blushed on the other end of the phone (good thing it wasn't a video conference or in person ha!). It feels good to finally get the cover and i am planning on trying to get few more Science covers in the future. Im hoping one of the Fellows at JILA discovers how to Time Travel. I bet I can make a bad ass cover for Science for that one.