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Spotlight on Commerce: Jenny Wang, Multimedia Specialist, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Guest blog post by Jenny Wang, Multimedia Specialist, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

I am a Multimedia Specialist in the Public Affairs Office at the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). I joined NIST in June 2020 with the goal of creating animations that would help NIST enhance its scientific storytelling. My team and I work with scientists, writers, and educators to visually communicate NIST’s research and findings in measurement science.

In May 2020, I graduated from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine with a master’s degree in medical and biological illustration. In the program, we were introduced to a multitude of ways to effectively tell stories in a scientific and medical context, from 3D animations to surgical illustrations to interactive modules. I loved the animation portion the best and focused my thesis on identifying the best practices of 2D animation to enhance learner responses.

I love my job at NIST because it directly draws from my love for animation and gives me so many opportunities to creatively explore and tell the story of important scientific topics in a fun way. For example, NIST has an animated Measurement League superheroes series that educates kids about the importance of measurement in everyday life. Our video team recently completed the fourth installment of the SI Superheroes series (“Two Truths and a Lie”) for children in grades four to six, focusing on fun facts about each of the superheroes. SI stands for the International System of Units, which is commonly known as the metric system, and proves definitions of units of measurement that are widely accepted in science and technology such as time, length, and temperature. As part of the Measurement League project, I was given the opportunity to reimagine the superhero characters in a new style that would make them more modern and relatable to our target audience. Reimagining them was quite fun; I embedded each unique personality into their respective design. Finally, I animated the episode with a bit of 3D and 2D combined. Check out the video here with links to two different platforms. 

I also worked with one of NIST’s graphic designers to animate NIST’s “What Is PNT?” video. This video explains how billions of devices around the world rely on something called positioning, navigation, and timing – or PNT – and why PNT is so important to our economy. Other projects I am currently working on include creating animations for an important tool for measuring light called a frequency comb and an animation on measuring greenhouse gas emissions. I am also working on developing a video on how a NIST device is helping researchers better understand how embers help spread wildfires.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is important to me because it helps me embrace my roots while also highlighting a unique Asian American experience in the U.S. I was born in Lanzhou, China, and grew up there with my grandparents before immigrating to the U.S. at five years of age. Because I was so young, a lot of my memories from back then have faded, but I still have inexorable ties to my heritage that I cherish to this day. When I walk a crowded city street in Baltimore and smell the strange combination of cooking food and petrol, I’m instantly transported back to the streets of China, walking amid the food vendors dishing out Gua Gua, our hometown specialty. Many of my ties to my Chinese heritage end there, as I spent the rest of my life growing up in American suburbs. To me, this transition was bittersweet, as part of me hoped to understand my heritage better but another part of me is incredibly grateful to have had the opportunities I’ve had in the U.S. One of my goals in the future is to collect my Grandma’s recipes so I can recreate the foods I grew up enjoying, and to share that experience with friends and family in the states. 

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month