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Sharon Isern

Sharon Isern, Ph.D. – artist, professor, scientist, and fun-loving geek

Steampunk PhageWhere science, art, and imagination intersect.


Bacteriophage, or phage, viruses that infect bacteria, pre-date dinosaurs. They are the most abundant and diverse organisms in the biosphere. They have been in a constant state of evolution and have adjusted to their environment while exchanging genes and traits with their bacterial hosts. In the end, they make sense, and are beautiful in their own unique ways, like a patchwork quilt or a post-apocalyptic robot constructed with spare parts and gears.

I’m a scientist and a professor who has always enjoyed making art as a hobby and as expressions of love and affection for family and friends. My professional life and my artistic side collided intermittently, but randomly. The iconic Steampunk Phage symbolizes a conscious decision to integrate art making into all aspects of my life.

Much of my inspiration comes from my research and work. I study viruses and teach undergraduate students about viruses and the cells that they infect both in the classroom and in the lab. I have also come to appreciate the critical role that a sense of belonging and professional identity have on academic, career, and personal successes. With this in mind, I am particularly interested in making art that can be shared with a group or community to express a shared interest or goal – a visual identity that can build bridges and cement resolve.

steampunk phage original and negative

Steampunk Phage – original (left) and negative image (right).

Enter Steampunk Phage. It became the icon for a regional science symposium for undergraduate students in Florida and later its negative color image became the theme for a week-long, international virus discovery workshop for science professors. Since then, I have expanded my portfolio while continuing to instill a sense of community through visual identity with my designs.

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