“Meet the BioArtists” recap

Standard

Art and science are intimately intertwined. A great example of the intersection of these two topics is the BioArt contest run by our colleagues at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology [FASEB]. Since 2012, FASEB has handed out awards to the most inspiring, creative artistic images of scientific phenomena, ranging from fungal infections to nutrient uptake by plants to neuronal cell signaling.

IMG_1467

BioArt images were displayed on the walls of the Karl Strauss Brewery in downtown San Diego

Though scientists may be accustomed to such stunning images (and videos), the public at-large has traditionally not experienced the same level of exposure.To bring BioArt to the masses in a truly public venue, the ASBMB recently sponsored “Meet the BioArtists ” at the Karl Strauss Brewery in downtown San Diego. Images submitted by previous BioArt contest winners were printed and hung on display in the brewery for several weeks in April, enveloping patrons with plant stem cells, nerve fibers and even the Ebola virus.

While the brewery staff made a valiant effort to point out the science-themed art, it was difficult (if not impossible) for any of the viewers to make the connection between the image hanging on the wall in front of them and the science that it was inspired by. This passivity is one of the problems with art. Engagement happens only at the discretion of the audience, removing the face-to-face interactions that lead to deeper understanding: you don’t get to ask Picasso how he painted that picture, or Mozart why he wrote that musical piece. Given the overarching goal of science outreach to connect scientists and non-scientists, it is important for such events to take place in situations that allow for direct interactions between the two groups.

Nat Prunet describes his winning BioArt image for attendees

So to add that extra touch of engagement, on the evening of April 5 BioArtist winners Bryan Jones, Nat Prunet and Clarence Wigfall came to the brewery to present their science-themed works of art for the local San Diego community, as well as attendees of the EB conference. Donning white lab coats, the BioArtists mingled with customers, talked about their motivations and artistic inspirations, and described the science behind their images for nearly four hours. The constant flow of engaged visitors coming to talk science on a Tuesday night was impressive, especially considering that a Padres baseball game was taking place a few blocks away. Outreach and engagement, all at once.

After the success of the “Meet the BioArtists” event, the ASBMB is contemplating how to continue bringing science art to the public by potentially developing a BioArtists road show that can visit cities across the country. After all, these days everyone deserves to get a chance to interact with art (and science).

Pictures from the event can be found here.

Meet the BioArtists

Standard

The Experimental Biology (EB) meeting has been a frequent visitor to San Diego. And every time we come to town, the ASBMB Public Outreach Committee puts on a unique outreach event that brings science to the local community. At EB2012 in San Diego, we organized (in conjunction with the San Diego Biotechnology Network) a science-themed tweet-up at the Mission Brewery. Two years later, we worked with the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center to put on an interactive science café at Southpaw Social Club that gave attendees a hands-on look at FoldIt, the protein folding video game.

So how do we top ourselves in 2016? This time around, we’ll be focusing on art. Anyone who has worked in a lab will immediately appreciate the beauty of the natural world and the creative, artistic ways that researchers showcase the wonders of science. To highlight these efforts, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) has, since 2012, sponsored the BioArt competition, which invites scientists to share “captivating, high-resolution images and videos representing cutting edge, 21st century biomedical and life science research.”

Ou 2015

One of the winning images from the 2015 FASEB BioArt contest, by Xiawei Ou, Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center, Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH) and ACH Research Institute, and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR

Now for the first time, we are bringing BioArt to EB. Winning images from the past several years will be displayed on the walls of the Karl Strauss Brewery, one of downtown San Diego’s hottest brew pubs. Even cooler, on the night of April 5, we will have several of the actual BioArt winners there in-person to talk about their entries and how they were motivated to translate their research into art. This will be a great chance to see for yourself the intersection of art and STEM (commonly referred to by the acronym “STEAM”).

So if you’re in San Diego looking for something to do on a Tuesday night and want to see what science has to offer, come on down and join us! As anyone who has come to one of our outreach events before can attest, you are guaranteed to have a fun time.

 

Worth A Thousand Words

Standard

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Unfortunately, the beauty of science is often confined to the eyes of those who do it, hidden behind mounds of technical data and impermeable prose. Yet visual scientific imagery represents the most direct form of science communication, one that can have a powerful impact on both scientists and non-scientists: consider the famous picture of Earth taken from the surface of the moon, or the intricate complexity of the DNA double helix.

The BioArt competition, launched by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) in conjunction with their centennial in 2012, aims to bring the artistic side of science out into the open. Scientists submit images or videos generated in the laboratory that are both visually magnificent and scientifically significant. To emphasize the theme of science communication, each entry must include a caption that describes the image or video in language relatable to a general audience. An important caveat is that each entry demonstrates research supported by federal funding.

The 2013 winners consisted of ten images and two videos, developed using both classical and state-of-the-art imaging technologies. Included are two entries from ASBMB members.

William Lewis from Emory University School of Medicine won for his image of an amyloid plaque viewed via polarized spectroscopy.

FASEB BioArt Entry From William Lewis, Emory University School of Medicine

Image courtesy of FASEB

Meanwhile, Douglas Cowan and James McCully from Harvard Medical School, were recognized for their fluorescence image depicting the cellular architecture of rat cardiomyocyte cells.

FASEB BioArt Entry from Douglas Cowan and James McCully, Harvard Medical School

Image courtesy of FASEB

The winning works of art have been displayed at several public locations, including the Visitor Center on the National Institutes of Health campus.

NMHM Science cafe poster

They were also highlighted during the Medical Museum Science Café this week in Silver Spring, Maryland, an event sponsored by the National Museum of Health and Medicine. Other opportunities for public display are currently being developed.

So are these images beautiful? See them with your own eyes.

For a full list of winning entries, please visit: http://www.faseb.org/About-FASEB/Scientific-Contests/BioArt/Winners.aspx

Thanks to Shaila Kotadia (@shpostrapheaila) for help writing this post!