Constance Sartor Brings Science Policy and Racial Justice Together for the National Science Policy Symposium T-Shirt Contest


Leading up to this year’s virtual National Science Policy Symposium, NSPN hosted a T-shirt design contest and fundraiser to promote awareness of racial inequity and advocate for change. Participants designed graphics that illustrated the following prompt: Racism and inequality exist in all scientific institutions, enterprises and methods. Science and policy have been part of the problem, but they can also be part of the solution. What does justice mean to you? How can science and policy be used as tools for creating lasting change? 

Constance Sartor's design (shown below) was selected as the winner. “The raised fist is a global symbol of fighting oppression and injustice, making the design simple, but powerful and direct,” said Caitlin Warlick-Short, NSPN Director of Communications. “The significance of the items held by the fist[s] represent the tools which we all can use as leverage to fight for justice from all angles, gloves on, or off.”

We caught up with Constance to talk a little about her experience as a scientist and artist, as well as the design.

How did you get into graphic design and science art?

Science-wise, I'm interested in the marine sciences, specifically coral reef ecology. My current research project is about understanding how corals (in Guam) can acclimate to warmer ocean temperatures, looking at gene expression. Although genetics is very small scale, I also really enjoy using GIS to look at bigger picture trends in coral reefs, like tracing coral diseases.

When I was in undergrad at the New College of Florida, I was pursuing biology and working at a local Mote Marine Aquarium cleaning shark tanks. That's where I got my first science-art opportunity to paint a few murals for the aquarium, including a 40' life size giant squid for their upcoming exhibit, "Molly the Mollusk". I absolutely loved painting big, so after that I started painting science-themed murals in other scientific institutions (including NOAA, NPS, Bonehenge Whale Center) as well as in private residences. I'm not formally trained in art, but have practiced a lot and am always exploring new techniques. Right now, I'd say my most popular medium is collage. I make recycled collages out of old National Geographic magazines (seen on Etsy & Instagram). 

It's cool because a lot of my scientific projects/connections have led to art opportunities and vice versa. It just shows me that science-art integration is very important and I think that art has the potential to efficiently communicate scientific topics to a broader audience (for example, the average citizen isn't going to read the latest peer reviewed journal article, they may be more likely to interact with a science-y mural at a local public venue).


What inspired you to come up with this design?

It was difficult to depict both science policy and racial justice, since they are both fairly intangible concepts, so I chose symbols that I feel represent both causes. In protests in general (and especially the George Floyd protests), a raised fist can communicate solidarity, power, and racial justice. As for science policy, I was in the genetics lab, pipetting and working on my thesis when I came up with the idea. A pipette is a widely used instrument, representing many fields of science. So with a fist and a pipette, I would be able to roughly communicate science policy and racial justice. I worked with Caitlin a bit more to include other fields of science by adding 3 more fists holding a gavel, pen and plant. 


What are you most excited about for the symposium?

This is totally outside of my discipline, but I'm really interested in the session about Racial Inequities in Food Systems and Agriculture Training (November 13, 4-5PM EDT).


You can check out Constance’s other artwork on Instagram (primary), Facebook, and Etsy.


The winning T-shirt design will be sold leading up to NSPN’s November symposium and proceeds will be used to support development grants for minority-serving institutions and HBCUs. To purchase a T-shirt, visit the NSPN Etsy store. If you are as excited about this year’s symposium as we are, register here! For more information about specific sessions and speakers, check out our website. And to get any questions answered, reach out to

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