Interview with Professor David Mazierski
By: Laura Seohyun Park
Over a cup of coffee, I recently met with Professor David Mazierski to discuss his fascinating and unplanned journey to become an associate professor in the Division of Biomedical Communications (BMC) at University of Toronto (U of T) Mississauga. After completing his undergraduate training in art at Buffalo State College, his love for both art and science led him to Toronto. When discussing medical art, Mazierski commented, “Sometimes people hear one or the other, but we all get excited when we find out that we can combine the two,” which he was able to accomplish at U of T through the Department of Art as applied to Medicine.
Mazierski’s passion and enthusiasm for his work were highly apparent throughout our conversation. His willingness to take chances had led him to numerous cities during his training. In the summer of his last year at U of T, Mazierski did a medical illustration internship at the University of British Columbia. This experience was important in itself, however it also played a pivotal role in leading him to a unique work experience in Israel. While looking into different work opportunities after graduation, he unexpectedly received a letter from a veterinary hospital in Israel inviting him to come to work on an atlas of camel anatomy. The director of the veterinary hospital, Professor Daniel Cohen, had been looking for a medical illustrator, and as word spread, Mazierski’s name had been mentioned. Although Mazierski had never been to Israel and did not know Cohen, he was excited by this opportunity, accepted it, and spent a year and a half working on the world’s first atlas of camel anatomy. This also gave him the chance to fulfill his childhood dream of travelling to Egypt, and to work in South Africa where he ran scientific illustration workshops. With the completion of the camel atlas, he returned to Toronto where he taught part-time at U of T while doing freelance work. Eventually, he even contributed to the ninth edition of the Grant’s Atlas of Anatomy. As it turns out, these accomplishments were not on Mazierski’s ‘To Do’ list. He had no idea where his career would take him, but one thing that kept him going was his passion and love for visual communication. “You have to be interested, passionate and open to ideas,” says Mazierski.
While currently supervising Master’s students in the department of BMC, Mazierski also teaches the undergraduate human biology course, HMB304H1: Biomedical Visualization, and continues to do freelance work. Some of the questions he and his students explore include: What is the theory behind communication and how can we use and build on different techniques and methodologies to create more effective communication? How can communication be improved for a given audience? They also research gaming and game theory, for example, how do games work and how can this be used as a strategy to learn? With excitement, Mazierski noted, “The things we do can be applied to any subject.” Indeed, his students represent diversity in science, with their research ranging from cell biology to paleontology. He agrees that whether you are a BMC student or not, communication skills are essential. “How you present yourself, how you talk, how you relate to others; the basic communication is important,” advises Mazierski. The ability to communicate your ideas clearly using different methods of communication tailored to your audience is critical no matter what field you are in.
Asking Mazierski for any advice to our readers, he replied, “Whether you know what you want to do or not, find something that interests you and don’t be afraid of following it. Believe in what you want to do – enjoy it and be passionate about it.”