Nathan Liu ’14 has a solution for medical school students struggling to remember the myriad symptoms associated with different diseases: visual mnemonics. Through the company he co-founded, Pixorize, Liu and his partners make creative images to help complicated topics stick.
For example, one image depicts a girl looking longingly at the planet Mars — she’s a fan of Mars or a “Marfan” — and she lifts her eye glasses to symbolize a dislocated lens. The lesson: patients with Marfan syndrome experience an upward movement of the lens in their eyes. It’s an unusual way to memorize facts, but it works, says Liu.
“Most people are visual learners,” he says.” Liu, for one, would know. He spent three years in medical school at Cornell before taking a hiatus to focus full time on Pixorize.
“It started off as a side project,” he says. “We really built it as way to help ourselves study.” But then, the company rapidly grew. Pixorize also makes history-related images for students in grades K–12 and offers a free annotation tool that anyone can use to add labels to images, from an X-ray to a family portrait. Liu also co-founded a nonprofit called Future of Care, a group of young entrepreneurs, clinicians and scientists bringing technological innovation to medicine.
At Rice, Liu studied engineering and minored in global health. After graduation, a Fulbright scholarship took him to London, where he earned his master’s degree in translational medicine, a field that marries engineering and medicine. “I’ve always wanted to work with tech,” he says. “I’ve always been a thinker.” He entered medical school to get a better grasp of the problems doctors and patients face, and how to innovate to solve them. “It’s an untraditional path,” Liu admits, but one he hopes will bear fruit. “You want your work to mean something to someone else,” he said, “and to help others.”— D.L.B.