Excellence by Design: Science Illustration grad rises to top of her field as visual storyteller

Butterfly illustration by Science Illustration Program graduate Taylor Maggiacomo

Monarch butterfly artwork by Taylor Maggiacomo from the annual Illustrating Nature exhibit of Science Illustration Program student work.

May 13, 2024

Illustrating Nature 2024, the annual exhibit of work by graduates of Cal State Monterey Bay's Science Illustration Program, will open from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, May 17, at Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History. 

By Kera Abraham

When Taylor Maggiacomo arrived in Monterey to start the CSUMB Science Illustration program in 2016, she informed her new housemates she’d be moving in with “a friend” — and adopted a black-and-white cat from a local animal shelter that same day. Oreo is still with her seven years later, making cameos during her video meetings as a graphics editor for The New York Times.

“I’ve been a cat lady since birth,” Maggiacomo says from her home office in Washington, D.C. “Most of my early drawings were of cats.”

Although she was artistic and scientifically curious from an early age, Maggiacomo initially took her parents’ advice to pursue a career in medicine. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in art from Carnegie Mellon University. But a few years into college, she realized she didn’t want to become a doctor. She asked her advisers how she could combine her passions for science and art.

“They didn’t know what to do with me,” she says. 

A new possibility opened up when Maggiacomo met a science illustrator at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Inspired, she connected with others in the field, including Daisy Chung, who had completed CSUMB’s Science Illustration graduate certificate program in 2015.

Chung remembers their first conversation.

“She left an impression on me as someone who was eager to learn, grow and try new things,” she recalls. “I was excited to meet a budding illustrator who was interested in the CSUMB program that I’d just graduated from.”

Maggiacomo followed in Chung’s footsteps, enrolling in CSUMB’s post-baccalaureate Science Illustration Certificate Program, which includes nine months of in-person classes followed by a professional internship. 

Read the full story in Monterey Bay Magazine