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FIU clinical trial results land on cover of prestigious scientific journal

FIU clinical trial results land on cover of prestigious scientific journal

Researcher Diana Azzam’s breakthrough cancer study caught the attention of editors who chose to put her work at the front and center of its publication - with the help of a talented FIU designer.

May 30, 2024 at 5:00pm

What does it take to get an FIU researcher’s story on the front cover of a major scientific journal?

No. 1: A blockbuster study

No. 2: A great image

Those components came together recently when FIU cancer researcher Diana Azzam published a groundbreaking study in Nature Medicine, a prestigious international publication of peer-reviewed articles with life-changing potential. In her case, in collaboration with Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, she was the first to guide treatment of relapsed pediatric cancer patients using a unique functional precision medicine approach. A second trial is currently underway to see if the innovation will work in adult patients.

The impact of her results convinced the editors that her submission could make a perfect cover, one that draws interest from readers – mostly scientists – while signaling the importance of her work.

But first, FIU would need to produce a piece of high-quality art that meets the publication’s standards.

Azzam envisioned a maze. A doctor and patient would be standing at the entrance. Instead of facing intimidating twists, turns and dead ends, a bright path would appear before them, revealing a clear way to the other side. This was how Azzam could visually communicate her research: If cancer treatment was like navigating a maze, Azzam’s unique approach to more effective, personalized, guided treatments is that illuminated pathway.

How she’d bring this vision to life, Azzam had no idea. She needed the help of an artist.

Enter Oscar Negret, an artist and graphic designer who for more than two decades has worked full-time for FIU and currently serves as the art director within the Division of Strategic Communications, Government and External Affairs. Negret has designed many award-winning publications and event exhibit spaces, like FIU’s pavilions at the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF®) and eMerge Americas tech conference.

The challenge of creating a cover for a scientific journal piqued his interest and, just as with scientific research, collaboration would be key.

After exploring different ideas together, Negret and Azzam, along with study co-author Noah Berlow, settled on the final creative concept.

“I was impressed by how fast Oscar was able to grasp the idea. That was the key to our success. He immediately understood what was needed in a short amount of time,” said Azzam.

For researchers, having an article make it to the cover can be a bucket list item — not just a point of pride or way to garner more attention to the research from other researchers, but an acknowledgement of their years of hard work.

“Having your research selected by such a prestigious journal is a dream for any scientist,” Azzam said. “To have it on the cover is an even bigger dream.”