Cheryl McCutchan



I’m a freelancer with a PhD in Plant Science and a mom of two daughters. I currently design science content for higher education courses, including illustrations and animations.

Instagram: @animedia_science

Cheryl McCutchan

“I fit in experiments while my baby slept.”

Unlike most new moms, when I was caring for my baby daughter I had a scientific experiment laid out on the kitchen table. I was working on my postdoctoral research on the effect of soil nutrients on photosynthesis and, unfortunately, I had no childcare.

No family nearby. No daycare nearby. And really no money to pay for childcare anyway. So, I fit in experiments while my baby slept, trying to analyse my data while she was still mostly immobile.

I realised then that I needed more time with my daughter. I couldn’t make my research and my care of her so piecemeal, feeling like I was doing neither very well. I decided to leave academia and my career as a research scientist. But after leaving academia and having another lovely little daughter, I was discouraged. What exactly was I going to do? I was trained for academia. I settled on two goals: 1. Have a flexible schedule so that I could mould my work time around my daughters’ schedules, and 2. Use my extensive science background in whatever my new career was going to be.

It was literally four years of searching. Then, one day I was reading a scientific article (um, yes, just for fun, cuz I sort of love science) and thought out loud, ‘Wow, this concept would be easier to understand with an animation!’ And that was my epiphany. The angels sang. The planets aligned. The cosmos smiled.

A decade ago I started retraining myself as a scientific illustrator and animator. I drew everyday and taught myself to animate. I still absolutely adore this work.

But my steady illustration/animation work for a big publishing company has been outsourced to small companies outside the US and now they decided I’m most valuable as a writer and editor. Despite not being my favourite work, I’m employed as much as I want as a science writer and editor with some illustration and animation clients also. I consider myself a science communicator these days. And I’ve met the two goals I set when starting down this freelance path.

But I love new goals and challenges, and tend to be more content when outside my comfort zone. So am very, very excited to explore some new paths over the next year!

catarina moreno