Biomedical Art & Visualization major blends artistic, scientific studies

Biomedical Art & Visualization major blends artistic, scientific studies


In a perfect world, every student would feel as if their major was designed for them.

At Rowan University, that seems to be the case for Emerson Harman and the Biomedical Art & Visualization (BMAV) program.

Exceptionally gifted, with a mind ever in search of knowledge and new experiences, Harman moved from Wisconsin to study BMAV at Rowan.

Carrying a 3.9 GPA heading into their final semester, Harman is an Honors with Distinction student through the John H. Martinson Honors College and will graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in BMAV, a minor in biological sciences, a Certificate of Undergraduate Study in Paleo Art & Visualization, and a Certificate of Undergraduate Study in geographic information science.

Harman is a prolific traveler who conducted field research in the Galapagos Islands to learn about native flora and fauna and travelled to Prague to study the great Czech artists of history.

“I grew up around the sciences and the arts,” said Harman, whose grandparents were biology professors, parents are visual and musical artists and whose brother is an entomologist.

Complimenting their artistic bona fides, Harman is an accomplished clarinetist who has played with Rowan's Wind Ensemble since freshman year.

“I think people often see arts and sciences as opposites, but they definitely complement each other,” Harman said.

An undergraduate research assistant and illustrator with Dr. Daniel Duran, assistant professor and naturalist in Rowan’s School of Earth & Environment, Harman was a science communication intern at the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens in Costa Rica last summer. They were a field technician and illustrator at Oklahoma State University in 2023, and a medical illustration intern at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in 2022.

They also served as a virtual intern in graphic design and scientific illustration with the U.S. Forest Service from September 2022 through May 2023.

“I thought I had to choose between the sciences and art but I didn’t think either was really right for me,” Harman said. “When I found (BMAV), I was like whoa! This is it!”

In addition to their extensive resume of undergraduate work experience, Harman will complete an internship this summer with Purdue University’s Farmers Helping Hellbenders initiative. A footlong aquatic salamander, the endangered hellbender is a gentle, non-venomous amphibian with loose skin, small eyes and a paddle-like tail that lives in lakes and streams.

“They’re super cool but they need very clean water to survive,” Harman said. “I’ll create outreach materials and help connect researchers and farmers to share best practices to reduce runoff.”

Harman, who arrived as a first-year student at Rowan with 41 college credits, completed coursework while still in high school at the University of Wisconsin, the Cleveland Institute of Art and Southwest Wisconsin Technical College.

Already a member of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators, Harman earned a prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to fund their trip to the Galapagos in 2023, where they followed in the footsteps of evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin.

“With my degree, we learn both the medical and the scientific side,” said the avid photographer and sketch artist, who found plenty of inspiration amid the tropical beauty of the islands. “In the Galapagos, you can just walk up to many of the animals because they didn’t evolve to be afraid of people.”

Harman, who may pursue a career in academia or magazine publishing, is investigating graduate programs including a master’s degree from the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador that would start in 2025.

In the meantime, they’ll exhibit their work this summer at the Cape May Point Science Center in Cape May County.

“The exhibition will include eight or nine large infographics, a 3D animation and an educational game, all based on monotypic species from around the world,” Harman said. “These are species that are not closely related to any others, like the platypus in Australia. People haven’t heard of most of these species, and many are endangered.”

Every spring, Rowan University highlights one graduating student from each school and college. Read more stories about this year’s featured graduates