Freelance Artist and Scientist

    Dr James O’Hanlon

    Dr James O'Hanlon
    As a freelance creative and scientist, James gets hired based on the quality of his work, not just because he has a particular degree or qualification.

    Dr James O’Hanlon is equal parts creative and scientific – combining both his strengths to create a one-of-a-kind career

    Before he was Dr James O’Hanlon, James was a high school student with a love of two very different subjects – science and art! Visual design and biology were his jam – but when it came to picking pathways it was science that he pursued. 

    “Despite almost falling high school biology, I enjoyed science enough to continue studying it at university!” James explains. “But I always kept art as a hobby on the side! 

    After completing a Bachelor of Marine Science at Macquarie University James became a biologist, and his career path looked pretty set at that point – straight-up STEM all the way with a side of art out-of-hours! But soon enough James’ creativity began to call. 

    “It was when I was doing my PhD that I really started to combine creativity with science!” James says. “I was studying an animal called the orchid mantis and had to make 3D models to use in behaviour experiments.”

    James spent months creating tiny praying mantis sculptures out of clay, wire, and even 3D printing – all in the name of science! And then there was the university lecturing, animal behaviour research, science podcast production and science-themed art he started producing on the side.

    “At school science and art were taught as if they were completely different subjects, so I always assumed they were opposite careers that didn’t overlap,” he explains. “But they both involve problem solving, critical thinking and using unique and specialised skill sets – everything I started to use!” 

    Doing his own thing 

    At the moment James is a freelancer, which means he works for himself on his own Art/science projects rather than one particular company! Clients hit him up to produce content – it might be creating a logo one minute and then interviewing a scientist for a podcast the next. 

    One of the coolest projects he’s worked on lately is illustrating a science-themed kids book, with every day a real-life experiment of how he’s going to fuse his creative skills with his science smarts.

    “With every experiment you run and piece of art you create, you are doing something for the first time that no-one on earth has ever done before,” stresses James.  

    James’ study and career pathway

    • Bachelor of Marine Science, Macquarie University
    • Masters of Philosophy, Macquarie University
    • PhD, Macquarie University


    Cassie Steel

    Author: Cassie Steel

    As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.


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