Candy Anatomy – Meet Glasgow Uni’s very own Candy King

Candy Anatomy is the brainchild of Glasgow University’s very own medical student Mike McCormick. If you hadn’t heard about it by now, you’ve been missing out on a truly ‘sweet’ piece of informative science.  Kristína Čimová sat down with Mike to find out a little bit more: 

Candy Anatomy all started when Mike and his friend Eliot Mason, a fellow medic, were having a burger in a well-known condiment-named establishment on Ashton Lane. Being ‘immature’ Mike wanted to colour in (as is said establishment’s tradition) and got given a picture of a sundae. That sundae picture got him thinking about the shape of a shoulder joint. Mike started drawing with sharpies and the idea of using candy came to him whilst eating a Haribo fried egg, which – as I am sure many of you non-scientists out there are also aware of – is very much like a cell in its make-up. He finds the choice of sweets particularly useful as he thinks about the systems and recalls why he chose a certain sweet to recreate it. These sweet anatomical designs have helped Mike revise and he has been trying to one-up his efforts ever since the first Candy Anatomy creation.

Mike refers to his pastime as a ‘ridiculous hobby’ and says he isfully aware of how immature it is’ as it started merely as a joke. He says that after a five year gap in academic study following his first degree, he is fully aware of how important it is to be constantly thinking about a recall strategy to study more efficiently.

He believes that anatomy is the most ‘international thing, as we all have the same body parts’ and that the ultimate value of his venture is an interesting way to make money as a student alongside studying. Other people also started to use his creations for revision soon after the project kicked off and he decided to go forward with a dedicated Instagram and Twitter page. And how many followers has Candy Anatomy got?

‘I just hit 19.2 thousand… I might go super political when I hit 20. (laughs) No, no, just joking… The response has been amazing though.’

First his designs were posted by his friend on reddit and then he started getting interview offers for online magazines in America. After being published in New York Good Magazine, the attention and fame all started to snowball.

Does he enjoy the attention that he gets as a result of Candy Anatomy?

‘I try to separate me from Candy Anatomy. In the long run in ten years’ time, I don’t want to be the ‘idiot candy doctor.’’

While I very much doubt that would be the case, it’s nice to see that he’s staying humble. I was also interested to see how long one design takes to bring to life. ‘In the ‘good old days’ it would take 10-20 minutes’, Mike says. He is now receiving commissions for the Medical School, however, so has decided to up his game. He says he personally finds them ‘rubbish’ to look at, but I think we can all agree that that is not true at all. He has started making them ‘bigger, black contrast and layer them up’ and since then it has started to take up to an hour or an hour and a half for one to be made.

The process is pretty straightforward:

‘I try to use something that will look quite striking, as in a high colour contrast. Nothing too complicated, though, because it would just look ridiculous. I also always ask myself: will the colours really represent what I want? That is also why sometimes it is fun to use something that will mirror the system itself- so, for example, for the lungs I used the Aero bubbles. As soon as the concept goes beyond easy I get exhausted. (laughs) I have been asked to do one that could be wheeled out for Open Days, but I thought it would look ridiculous.’

Plus, as he points out, it would be made of sugar, so the issue of ants would be a serious one. Naturally.

I was particularly interested in what this whole operation must have cost him:

‘God knows what it costs me. Probably quite a lot. I have a massive box of sweets because I don’t eat them, I just reuse them because they become all stale and horrible.’ (I must say that would definitely not be my problem… )

Any special sweets you have to order in?

‘I really want some blue raspberry laces.’ Mike laughs and also adds: ‘Christmas time is obviously a sweet market so I get myself lots of sweets then.’

Eliot jumps in at this point: ‘This pursuit for blue raspberry laces has haunted you for like a year now. The number of times we have gone into town for a hunt of something that could resemble the lymphatic drainage system are countless. Of course, it is rather awkward to ask the shop assistants for things like that…’

‘Having said that, getting small veins sweet would be a complete game changer,’ laughs Mike.

What about the response of family and friends?

‘Mum and dad like it. If I am in newspapers they like to buy it. Both of my parents are dentists as well- so it is nice and ironic. I imagine most of my year are sick to death of me by now, though.’

I also asked Mike about the moral message sent out by a future doctor promoting sweets.

‘My stance on this is: I am offering kids an alternative to eating sweets. I suggest they no longer eat sweets, just make art out of them!’ How refreshing!

Has Mike ever made a mistake in his designs?

‘One of my kidneys was a bit off, I remember someone commented on that and I realised that the book I was reading was wrong, but I made sure I updated it within 24 hours, so, you know, I wouldn’t ruin the life of anyone who was using candy for revision.’

I was also curious to find out what happens once he runs out of designs to recreate:

‘I don’t fear I will run out- I follow what is in our lectures. Also I have started making the old ones better. Better resolution, better contrast, that kind of thing.’

He is most excited about his latest commission, however:

‘This commission is the one that really makes most sense so far- it is for a children’s hospital in Edinburgh and obviously the connection between children, sweets and medicine is the most fitting for this project.’ Candy Anatomy fans, look out for Mike posting it up on Facebook!

Needless to say, this is a really cool and original project.  I think I speak on behalf of all of those studying arts subjects when I say- if only all science could look this much fun! And in case Candy Anatomy’s biggest fans are wondering if he is in the market for a sidekick – who would obviously have to be known as the ‘confectionery kid’ – Mike says he could probably use the help. Or perhaps a Nutritionist Nemesis, if you dare…

[Kristína Čimová]

Check out Candy Anatomy on Twitter!

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