A while ago I gave a small three-hour workshop to introduce the functionality of the POV-Ray Raytracing software. Last week, a participant of that workshop came with the intention to build an animation for his Ph.D. project.
I was pleasantly surprised by the number of participants to that workshop, and this indicates a need for graphics generation instruction in the current curriculum.
Another reason is the need for scientists to express themselves not only in words understandable to their peers, but also in images, which are much more accessible to the general public.
Allow me to substantiate this claim by a quote from Prof. Atkins:
“Computer graphics are opening up whole new methods of understanding and communication in science, and a well-selected image can break through the fog of incomprehension and shine out with its message.”
POV-Ray is a worthy program for making scientifically oriented, aesthetically pleasing imagery. It is open-source (and thus free), multi-platform and uses script-able input files. Furthermore, it offers true four-dimensional (3D+time) animation options. Due to its raytracing nature, it can render lifelike imagery.
My lecture handouts are available here: Some POV-Ray examples / tutorial, if there is interest in more information on the subject, please do drop me a line.