Celebrating the 100th Cartoon with a Few Words from the Promega Cartoonist

Heading into 2020, we realized that our Cartoon Lab was reaching a milestone: the 100th cartoon! We asked the “official” Promega Cartoonist Ed Himelblau to list his Top Five Cartoons and what inspired them. See what he has chosen in his own words:

This was the first of my cartoons that Promega published and it’s still one of my favorites. The file on my computer is dated February, 1999. I have been an undergraduate in a lab. I’ve mentored undergraduates in lab. Today I have lots of undergraduates working in my plant genetics lab at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. For the record, I enjoy having undergraduates in the lab and I never make them dress like robots. In this cartoon, I particularly like the centrifuge and stir plate on the right. I’ve always tried to put something in each cartoon (a tube rack, an enzyme shipping box, a desiccator) that make molecular biologists say, “I know that!”

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Friday Cartoon Fun: Entertaining Yourself Between Incubations

Occasionally, time in the lab passes slowly. There is a two-hour incubation and nothing can be done until the timer goes off. Our science cartoonist Ed Himelblau has illustrated what some creative lab members may have done to fill this time, but is not advised to do:

Copyright Ed Himelblau

To see additional lab shenanigans, peruse the collection of humorous cartoons in our Cartoon Lab.

Friday Cartoon Fun: Is It Drawn or Is It Real?

I always enjoy Ed Himelblau’s cartoons, but one that makes me chuckle every time I see it is the following:

Copyright Ed Himelblau.

I am sure our readers that enjoy coffee can empathize.

Recently, our Swiss branch had fun with a number of the cartoons from our Cartoon Lab archive and recreated the cartoon in real life:
Real-life recreation of Ed Himelblau's cartoon.
What do you think?

An Interview with Ed Himelblau, Scientist and Promega Cartoonist

Self portrait by Ed Himelblau

Many visitors to the Promega Web site enjoy the Cartoon Lab, the repository of the creative illustrations of Ed Himelblau updated several times a year. Recently, I had a chance to gain some insight about the man behind the cartoons.

Sara Klink: Could you give some background information about yourself?
Ed Himelblau: I was born in Chicago but grew up in San Diego. I went to UCSD [University of California at San Diego] and majored in biology and minored in art. I liked molecular biology and working in labs so I decided to go to grad school. I went to the University of Wisconsin at Madison to get a Ph.D. in the Cell and Molecular Biology program. My first academic job was teaching biology at Southampton College in New York. After several years on Long Island, I moved to my current job teaching and doing research in the Biological Sciences Department at Cal Poly [California Polytechnic State University] in San Luis Obispo, CA.

S.K.: Why did you decide to become a scientist?
E.H.: Playing in tidepools as a kid had something to do with it. As an undergraduate I thought working in a lab sounded cool. When I started working in a lab, I thought the work was interesting and the people were a lot of fun to be around. Then I started to appreciate what it really meant to do experiments and learn about how plants grow and develop.

S.K.: When did you first begin creating cartoons?
E.H.: My first cartoon was a blatant Peanuts rip-off created at age 7.

S.K.: How did you become a cartoonist for Promega?
E.H.: Promega conducted an intense international search to find that rare individual with the elusive dual talent of drawing silly pictures and northern blotting. (Actually, I called Promega and said, “I have some cartoons…will you publish them?” and Promega said, “OK.”)

S.K.: Can you tell us what came first: the scientist or the cartoonist?
E.H.: I am now, and will always be a scientist first and a cartoonist second…until the NIH starts giving out cartoon grants.

S.K.: How does the career path you took compare to what you thought it would be when you started graduate school?
E.H.: Honestly, it’s about what I hoped for. I knew in graduate school that I didn’t want to run a big lab and I enjoyed teaching. So I’ve always focused on jobs with a good balance between teaching and undergraduate research.

S.K.: Describe your current position at Cal Poly.
E.H.: My job is 50% teaching, 50% research and 50% teacher training…wait a minute!

S.K.: How would you describe yourself?
E.H.: Wildtype with 22 pairs of homologous chromosomes + XY.

S.K.: What do you enjoy about living in California?
E.H.: When I go swimming…outdoors…at 10am…on a weekday…in February, I’m reminded that I have a very nice job in a very nice place.

S.K.: What do you miss about Wisconsin now that you live in California?
E.H.: I loved living in Wisconsin and still visit often. Maybe this is a cop-out answer…but I really miss the midwestern-ness of it.

S.K.: Compare and contrast the dairy products from Wisconsin versus those from California.
E.H.: California has more cows and greater milk production. However, Wisconsin cows are more attractive.

S.K.: What is your greatest accomplishment?
E.H.: That would have to be my Olympic short track speed skating medal. Or possibly my mastery of traditional Amish quilting techniques. But the REAL accomplishment would be to finally break into the top 25 of molecular biology cartoonists…a very exclusive club.

You can view Ed’s most recent cartoon at Cartoon Lab and visit the Cartoon Lab Archives to see his full body of work for Promega. Many thanks to Ed for taking time to answer my difficult questions and letting us get to the heart of a scientist and cartoonist as well as sharing a self-portrait of his dual (dueling?) careers.