Sam Bond is a jack of all trades. She is a medical illustrator, animator, graphic designer, researcher, teacher, game developer, and fine artist. With a passion for gaming with education, Sam plans to combine her two loves to form a career. Sam proves that through persistence and determination, you can overcome any obstacle presented on your journey for success. Sam's passion for helping others, while staying true to herself is why she is our #WCW.
1. What's your story? What makes you unique?
I’ve always been torn between the worlds of logic and creativity - half of my passion stems from fine arts and the other half from research and problem solving. I always felt like I had to choose between art and science, between creativity and problem solving. It took me until college, when I found medical illustration, to realize that I didn’t have to.
My elevator speech isn’t exactly pithy and I don’t think I’d ever be able to fit what I call myself on a name plate, but I’m lucky enough that I can float between roles every day – medical illustrator, animator, graphic designer, researcher, teacher, game developer, and fine artist. One of my undergraduate professors, after three years as my teacher and two as my employer, (hopefully) fondly called me “impatient in a mostly good way.” When I figure out what I want for myself, I want to start gunning for it, and I’ll try to use every skill I have in both the sciences and the arts to get there, and I just feel so lucky that I’m able to go for it at all.
Right now, I’m unbelievably fortunate to be working as a visiting Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Half of my position is teaching game development for the program I just graduated from (Biomedical Visualization), and the other half working with the faculty and researchers of the Physical Therapy department.
2. What motivates you?
Game development as a whole is surrounded by possibilities right now. What really drives me is taking the powerful concepts that make good games and applying those to patient and student education materials. “Serious games” (or for my purposes, educational games) have a bad reputation for being manipulative, monotonous, and condescending to the audience by tacking on things like points and badges to convince the users to actually learn. All games – honestly, all games – are educational. If we can understand and utilize those things that make successful games so fun, we can start to completely change the world of education for all backgrounds and levels of health literacy.
3. Who is a hero of yours?
My mom is the biggest influence in my life. She’s a strong woman that has emphasized the power of caring about others just as much as she’s emphasized going for your goals. Even though she definitely encouraged us to chase our dreams, she pushed us further to ask more of our dreams and question if what we wanted could be better.
4. Give us a road map of your career. How did you get to where you are today?
Part of me wants to say that it was an incredibly lucky series of accidents where I was able to con people into giving me opportunities, but I know it’s not exactly that simple. I went straight into college from high school, straight into graduate school from college, and straight into teaching at that same graduate program after obtaining my Master’s in May. Throughout all that though, I’ve had a grab-bag assortment of jobs and experiences from art teacher for kids and adults (at one point getting kind of tricked into teaching an anime class with a week to prepare), office assistant, computer lab monitor, teaching assistant, residential program organizer, caricature artist, and an art department intern in a balloon factory. Honestly, I just like working. Beyond that though, I can only be thankful for the people I’ve gotten to work with and ecstatic that I’ve been given opportunities that have kept me at UIC.
5. What's your future plan? Your goals?
I want to flood the world of scientific education with game developers and successful interactive tools! I want to keep building and creating for health and wellness education and scientific courses. More than anything, I want to see a batch of excited, well-meaning, naively optimistic game developers and scientists starting to work together. My only goal right now is to put all my effort toward making that happen.
6. If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?
Care about everything you do – and when you don’t think you can care anymore, sleep and then care some more. My mom used to tell us to take pride in everything we do, even the work we hate. About a year ago, I started having sudden tachycardia that would last days, and I really wanted to stop caring about my work. What I honestly didn’t expect though, is that over the course of the two months that it took for my cardiologist to diagnose the heart condition, caring about my work was the easiest thing I could do to go from feeling exhausted to feeling totally normal again. Stay passionate. Care aggressively. Work compassionately.
(Also, be punctual. Seriously.)
7. What is something you feel strongly about (a cause, belief, etc.)?
A lot of my current work revolves around encouraging healthy decision-making in all populations and using game theory and intrinsic/extrinsic motivations to change lifestyles in baby steps. Game-based learning is so magnificently powerful and I get revved up just thinking about how robustly it can change habitual health and wellness.
8. What's one of the coolest things you've ever done?
In April, my three Master’s research partners (Melanie Conrad, Eva Mae Baucom, and Samantha Clemens) and I were fortunate enough to present our research, developing an interactive education platform and four craniofacial surgical animations, to the American Cleft-Palate Craniofacial Association. It was the largest audience I’ve ever spoken in front of and it was the first time I think I’ve ever realized, “This is it – this is the kind of work I want to talk about for the rest of my career.” It was a really life changing moment for me.
Animation By Sam Bond
9. Anything we haven't asked that you'd like to talk about.
I wouldn’t have made it through my graduate program (I wouldn’t have even made it through the move to Chicago) without the help of friends, family, and kind acquaintances. Toward everyone - even direct competition, even those who are going for exactly what you want - offer help, offer kindness, and show what you care about to everyone you know. And while you’re offering things, offer to buy me food.