Microbiology student gives the white lab coat a makeover

The white laboratory coat is the uniform of science – and it’s uniformly boring.

Lani Benedict, a sophomore in microbiology, embellishes lab coats to reflect scientific inspiration and research focus. (John Eisele/CSU Photography)

Unless you happen to work in the Quackenbush Laboratory in Colorado State University’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology. Here, sophomore Lani Benedict is launching a fashion trend to reflect the creativity involved in science.

Benedict, a microbiology major from Aurora, Colo., uses black fabric markers to embellish lab coats with intricate drawings that represent a scientist’s inspirations and research interests. She started with her own, then worked on the coat of a research colleague, and now is accepting commissions from students and researchers across campus.

“It’s a nice way to communicate, ‘This is what I do, and I’m proud of it,’” said Benedict, who started a research internship in the Quackenbush Lab during fall semester. “Art is one of the ways you can communicate your findings in science for a wide audience, and that’s a really important thing to do.”

Her artistic project began when Benedict bought her first coat for a CSU science laboratory, and the course instructor encouraged students to personalize the white smocks they wore to protect clothing from laboratory spills. She did just that by drawing on the back a larger-than-life barn owl, her favorite bird, encircled by a vine of flowers.

Next, Benedict went to work on the coat of Connie Brewster, research associate in the Quackenbush Lab. This time, Benedict wanted to reflect her love of molecular biology. She drew bighorn sheep and walleye surrounded by strands of DNA and glycoproteins, with mosquitoes alighting on the lapels.

The drawing represents the virology research under way in the Quackenbush Lab. Sandra Quackenbush, associate dean for academic and student affairs in the College of Veterinary Medicine and…

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