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Stanford psychology Ph.D. student Natalia Vélez began sketching during academic talks a year ago. Now, she has earned the nickname “The Science Sketcher” for her work.
The early doodling days
Vélez began her doodling habit by scribbling in the margins of notebooks throughout elementary and high school.
“Even if I was paying attention in class, I would just be so restless,” she said during a recent Stanford interview. “I just always needed to do something with my hands.”
However, she gave up her doodling for several years, until in 2017, she noticed Stanford psychology Associate Professor Michael C. Frank drawing portraits of speakers. This inspired her to start her scribbling once more.
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“I thought, that looks like fun,” said Vélez. From there, she began sketching at conferences and gatherings as well as department events, visiting speakers and weekly department area talks.
Sharing her work
Vélez shares her illustrations on her Twitter feed, @natvelali. “Lately, I’ve also had the chance to sketch thesis defense talks by my cohort mates, which has been fun – but also bittersweet,” she said.
Earlier this year, Vélez made her debut as “The Science Sketcher” in the Stanford Psychology Newsletter, a feature that will now become a regular.
Vélez shared that she was happy to see that sketching in class or during other events was not only accepted but appreciated. This is a major difference from the way her sketching was perceived in high school where she got in trouble for doodling.
Now, Vélez just hopes her work can bring some benefit to her fellow classmates and academic colleagues. “Sketching has always helped me focus, but I hope it can be of some small benefit to others as well,” she said.