Tony Stark and Bruce Banner would be impressed.

Granted, Marvel Studios probably won’t produce anything soon about allosteric regulation of glutamate dehydrogenase 1 by mitoNEET. But the comic book created by a team of graphic arts management and underrepresented chemistry and biology students has caught the attention of professionals around the country.

As part of an immersive learning project, the group took the complexities of scientific research and articulated the findings into the hyper-vibrant, onomatopoeia-packed style of a comic book. The graphic arts management students submitted their final product for awards during the Technical Association of the Graphic Arts (TAGA) annual conference, and they walked away the Special Recognition Award for Design Quality.

The project began when Ball State’s chapter of TAGA decided it wanted to return after a four-year hiatus to the association’s international conference. Through Ball State’s inclusion into Konica Minolta Education Loan program, the graphic arts students had use of a state-of-the-art digital press. However, the students still needed content. They needed to locate research articles for their journal.

They connected with a group of Ball State science majors who had just completed faculty-mentored research projects funded by the National Science Foundation. These students were part of the NSF’s Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program at Ball State. Lucky for the graphics students, their classmates in the LSAMP program had finished research projects and presented their findings at poster sessions. That meant the LSAMP Scholars already had source materials to work from.

The partnership yielded a 133-page explanation of the scholars’ scientific research. But there was one major difference between their work and what is commonly found in the pages of the “Journal of the American Chemical Society” or “The American Naturalist.”

Woven throughout the abstracts, charts, and references in the student-produced “TAGA Journal,” a narrative unfolds for four superheroes: Blue Atom, Bright Flame, Lady Helix, and Chemical X. Color-coordinated around the traditional cyan, magenta, yellow, and black print pallets, the mighty quartet seeks to rescue the LSAMP research from the evil villain and cybernetic augmented Dr. Viktor Hazard.

The creative twist on the presentation of scientific research impressed the judges enough at TAGA’s national conference that the graphics students took home a first-place award for their publications design. On top of the award, the Ball State chapter of the professional group surged by 500% during the course of the project.

Meanwhile, the LSAMP Scholars gained team-building skills and experienced new ways to spark an interest in science among non-scientists.

And while none of them can claim they saved the day, per se, the group proved what happens when a crack team with different skills assembles to bring a colorful new twist to scientific studies.

Read the Comic Book

Will Dr. Viktor Hazard succeed in his plans to steal the research, or will our heroes stop their foe once and for all?

See for yourself in this issue of “TAGA Journal!”