Skip to Content

Science As Art 2015 Winners

2015 SCIENCE AS ART CONTEST WINNERS

  

Two years ago I began volunteer work at the Ann Arbor VA Hospital where I worked closely with patients in occupational therapy (OT), many of whom were struggling with the dexterity of their hands. I became particularly interested in a set of patients who, due to issues such as radial nerve injury, lacked the strength to open their hand at all. Patients struggling with issues involving hand dexterity are likely to require daily assistance, and often face diminished quality of life. While therapist’s work with many of these patients to re-educate the muscles involved in abduction of the phalanges, many patients instead are given a bulky fin-like splint to force the hand open so it may be used. These splints however are reminiscent of a wicked issue in the United States healthcare ideology: the emphasis on quick solutions as opposed to quality solutions. After working with the OT patients I began designing a series of concepts to address hand dexterity so patients can recover daily autonomy, and quality of life. The PRE Design concept submitted for this competition is one of those designs.

 

The PRE concept was developed so that patients who need to strengthen muscles involved in hand abduction would be able to do so outside of the clinical setting. Often, in-house patients voiced interest in practicing therapies on their own time to reduce the number of clinical visits and speed up recovery. For patients who are not in-house for treatment, this could mean less money spent on travel and less time away from work. The PRE concept is designed to be made of thermoplastic, foam, and weighted Velcro. The body of the design has two parts that create a splint to keep the wrist comfortable and secure while patients practice their exercise. The exercise its self, involves repetition of opening and closing the hand, or individual fingers. It is important that the wrist be kept in a neutral position to ensure it is not assisting the abduction of the phalanges. Debilitation of wrist movement is promised by the ball like form seen in the palm and is part of the anterior portion of the splint. On the phalanges themselves, this PRE design concept demonstrates weighted sleeves that might be slipped onto each finger and secured with Velcro. These sleeves can be graduated to prevent the patient from reaching a plateau. Additionally, if only specific phalanges need treatment, this design allows for customization as the five sleeves are designed to be five separate entities. The concept drawing itself was produced using pen and ink on paper, and was then scanned into and labeled in Adobe Photoshop.

My piece focuses on the personal moral compromises of scientific research. I wanted to illustrate what it feels like to be interested in a scientific principal/idea and to want to help make a difference within the scientific community by researching this idea, but to have to do this by means of something that doesn’t make one entirely comfortable. The use of animals in research is an arguably necessary but sometimes disturbing event. In my time doing research I have yet to meet a researcher who enjoys experimenting on animals, yet we all do it because we believe in something greater coming out of it. Every person involved in research deals with their experience in animal research in different ways, some become hardened to it and others never do. My artwork focuses on a girl, the black of her hair tells a story of troubled thoughts about her research, however her face is directed towards her cupped hands from which there comes a light. This light represents the good that she is working towards through her research and the hope that something helpful will come of her work. Her hair forms into multiple hands one of which surrounds her neck, representing the stifling feeling when one does something that makes them uncomfortable. Even though they know they are working towards an admirable goal, they still can’t shake their uneasiness. Her hair contains scenes of violence with the snake and crab attacking the fish and the spider trapping the butterfly. These represent the feeling of being like a predator to the animals we experiment on. Many of the animals portrayed are used in research. These images are intermixed with images that show a more reassuring side of research. These are more personal to my own experiences, but could be generalized to others. For example, her hair features a very faded photo of my grandmother who had Alzheimer’s disease, initially sparking my interest in research. It also features an open winged bird, because many of the mouse carcasses used in research are taken and fed to birds, giving the mice another slightly more natural purpose in addition to their contributions to research. The third category of objects making up her hair, are more classic scientific objects that placed an interest of science in my mind. The girl’s hair features peas and flowers to represent Mendelian genetics, which was one of my first scientific interests. Neurons are also featured as diseases of neurodegeneration are my current interest. My piece was painted entirely in acrylic with a variety of things appliqued onto it including beads, shells, string, feathers, rocks, a paper map, and money along with the clay objects I constructed. Overall, the piece contains a personal account of my experience in research, but also attempts to capture an overall feeling of internal struggle that others may experience doing their own research as well.

Medium: Digital                Art, 6.5inX20in, Printed Poster  

Malaria is a widespread human disease caused by a parasite. The transmission of the parasite into the blood stream is initiated when an infected pregnant female mosquito feeds on human blood. According to the 2013 World Health Organization’s annual report on Malaria, there has been a decline in the disease worldwide due largely to preventive measures such as controlling mosquito population. However, the disease is still rampant in the developing world. In 2012, there were around 207 million cases of malaria, and 627,000 deaths that were a result of infection. It is estimated that 3.4 million people worldwide are at risk for contracting the parasite. Malaria is a rigorous and highly evolved parasite that lives half its life in the human blood stream and the other half in the Mosquito’s digestive system. It is crucial to understand each stage of the infection thoroughly in order to affectively treat the disease. A form of the Plasmodium falciburm parasite, called sporozoites inhabit the pregnant female mosquito’s salivary gland, so when she feeds on a human the sporozoites enter the blood stream of the human. Sporozoites first go to liver cells where they lay dormant for 5-16 days during which time merzoites are being rapidly produced within liver cells. Then the liver cells lyse, and the merozoites adhere to red blood cells. After parasitic invasion, the infected red blood cell undergoes three structural stages of infection. The parasite incubated inside red blood cells after this, the final stage called the schizont stage occurs. Here, the parasite reproduces asexually to form between 16 and 32 daughter merozoites. After this point, increased internal pressure causes the red blood cell to burst open. The freed merzoites can move through the blood stream and attach to other red blood cells. This harmful process of asexual reproduction occurs repeatedly for 1-3 days around the 15th-20th day after initial infection. It is often in this time that the symptoms of Malaria begin to manifest, especially fevers.

No more magical feeling exists than gazing up at a starry sky. Through astrophotography, I aim to not only capture this feeling, but also probe the depths of the cosmos with nothing more than an equatorially-mounted dSLR camera with a stock lens.

 

The submitted astrophotograph of the Milky Way, taken on July 29, 2014, in Lake County, California, reveals a great amount about our galactic home. The image stretches from Sagittarius to Cygnus, two of the more notable summer constellations, and stares into the disk of the Milky Way’s spiral arms. These arms extend out from the galactic core, and are home to many deep sky objects, not to mention millions of stars. I have identified well over 50 of these objects in this image, including open and globular star clusters, emission nebulae, reflection nebulae, and dark nebulae. The scientific principles that I am able to observe first-hand through this image are virtually endless. This photograph shows that globular clusters tend to contain older yellower stars, while open clusters tend to contain younger bluer stars; It also shows that while the galactic disk is home to many stars, there is gas and dust as well (evidenced by the darker rift in the middle of the starry band). In fact, if that gas is ionized by a star, the photograph tells us which gas is present based on the color of light it emits. For example, from the Lagoon Nebula’s pinkish red color (which can be seen on the right edge of the image), I can infer that it contains mostly Hydrogen.

 

Another scientific principle exists in creating this image. In order to reveal the faintest of cosmic structures, long exposures are needed. However, the Earth is rotating, which causes the stars to streak and blur the image. The solution to this problem is an equatorial mount, which tracks the motion of the stars. By precisely aligning my mount, and experimenting to find the proper photographical settings, I captured objects 1,000,000 times less luminous than anything visible to the naked eye.

 

In addition to providing an aesthetically pleasing photograph, my goal in capturing this image was to provide a sense of comfort in the cosmos, as well as capture the magical feeling of being outside under a starlit sky. Instead of pointing my camera deep into intergalactic space to capture galaxies millions of lightyears away, I chose to photograph our galactic neighborhood. Many people look up in the night sky and feel insignificant. I wanted to show the exact opposite by providing a look into our region of the cosmos. When I look into this image, I don’t think about floating on a rock endlessly through space. Instead, I think of how amazing it is to live in a corner of the universe full of cosmic activity, purpose, and maybe even extraterrestrial life. I think of home.

(2014, 60 x 72 in, packaging paper)

This conceptual, minimalist piece invites a dialogue concerning recycling, waste, and the science of cycles. Founded on the belief that human processes must act more like the natural processes that have maintained a balanced earth for thousands of years, recycling attempts to replicate the cyclical processes found on earth (such as the water, nitrogen, phosphorous, and carbon dioxide cycles). Examples include making buildings out of used materials, designing water reclamation plants to reintroduce water, and engineering materials that use less material and encourage recycling of “used” materials.

 

Herein lies the problem – the problem of “used.”

 

Let’s say you just received some books from Amazon Prime, or your mother finally shipped you that china for storage, or your best friend sent a care package of chocolate to you from Belgium. What will you value when you get the package? The items “inside,” of course; the items “they put in there for you;” the “valuables.” What happens to the rest? The box, its label, the tape to secure the box, and all that annoying packaging paper? It gets recycled if we’re lucky – or thrown away if we’re the average human. We do not value the contents that held the “valuables” – we ignore them. We turn a roundabout into a one-way straight to a landfill that lets toxic chemicals leach into streams and the ground. We throw local ecologies into danger. We introducing harmful positive feedback loops into our environment.

 

“Used” becomes unwanted. Recycling becomes unwanted.

 

I have been collecting packaging materials that have come in the mail for the past eight months and making art out of them. Boxes, plastic air bags, used tape, tissue paper, packaging paper: the “used” mediums. It began when I ordered watering cans; I found them wrapped in the paper you see hanging in my artwork. It’s an environmentally conscious paper in which the holes let the paper expand and fill “dead space” in packages; thus, less is needed to ship items safely. Not only did I love the materiality – it feels like cracked snake skin to touch, and when layers overlap, they create a visual effect similar to spinning wheels or tree branches aching through the wind. I hung up the five pieces with nails and thought. Why did we call this material used when it’s just as new to us as the materials held inside? I paid for this material (shipping and handling) but it was headed straight for the

 

This paper demanded me to have a social conscious. It spoke to me when I had never heard.

 

Shipping and Handling forces us to see how and why we value things we send, and that recycling can be just as fragile of a science as the paper that hangs here. If we fail to change our one-ways to roundabouts, we can’t expect our world built on cycles to sustain anything. So maybe one day I’ll use this very paper to send some chocolate I love to a friend across the globe.

“In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it's the exact opposite.”

 

Physicist Paul Dirac spoke these words to defend his belief that poetry and science were incompatible, a viewpoint with which I wholeheartedly disagree. In my poem titled Torque I attempt to explore the application of scientific principles in physics as they can apply to unscientific emotions of the heart.

 

The inspiration behind the selecting torque as the scientific principle for the foundation of my poem comes from my time as a past Physics SLC facilitator and Learning Assistant. In introductory physics classes, many of my peers and I struggled to understand torque. For clarity, I would often approach the formula T=rfsin(Ɵ) component by component, and I chose to follow a similar structure in my poem. I highlighted each element of the formula with a different color to juxtapose the overall stream-of-consciousness freestyle of the poetry with a purposeful scientific and methodical structure. The unstructured and choppier verses are intended to craft a tone of distress and anguish until the line of the poem ending in three ellipses, indicating that change is on the horizon.

 

I also physically structured my poem by indenting slightly with each line, to indicate the powers of torque at work as the poem gradually bends towards the right. However, when the subject in the poem chooses to follow his/her own path, the poem structure begins to twist back leftward onto a straight independent line-structure, and no longer rotates and twists from the previous force.

 

It is my hope that this poem, if it has achieved its purpose, is interpreted uniquely by each reader based on each individual’s life experiences. The poem essentially depicts the emotions tied to a poisonous relationship, be it a friend, an intimate partner, or object, but is ultimately anything or anybody who has a greater influence on your actions and life than they should. I greatly champion causes of domestic violence prevention and addiction awareness and I hope that this poem can shed greater light on these topics. I wish for this work to resonate with anybody who has at anytime lost their sense of purpose within the world, instead following the course outlined by others, and then finds the strength to escape restrictive confines and regain direction with renewed vigor.

 

Torque allows an object to rotate in any direction it chooses, and in this way it, like the heart, is very vulnerable to outside forces. But, torque can be controlled when all of the components assemble together in the right formulaic combination: (1) the displacement vector measuring the right amount of distance to keep, (2) the force vector representing the appropriate mass and acceleration, and (3) theta symbolizing the right angle, then momentous things can happen.

 

I also ended the poem with F=ma to close with a strong impact. The principal forces guiding our life actions should come from within, and this is what the subject realizes at the poem’s close. A new force has now been created: and it is a force to be reckoned with.

My piece focuses on the personal moral compromises of scientific research. I wanted to illustrate what it feels like to be interested in a scientific principal/idea and to want to help make a difference within the scientific community by researching this idea, but to have to do this by means of something that doesn’t make one entirely comfortable. The use of animals in research is an arguably necessary but sometimes disturbing event. In my time doing research I have yet to meet a researcher who enjoys experimenting on animals, yet we all do it because we believe in something greater coming out of it. Every person involved in research deals with their experience in animal research in different ways, some become hardened to it and others never do. My artwork focuses on a girl, the black of her hair tells a story of troubled thoughts about her research, however her face is directed towards her cupped hands from which there comes a light. This light represents the good that she is working towards through her research and the hope that something helpful will come of her work. Her hair forms into multiple hands one of which surrounds her neck, representing the stifling feeling when one does something that makes them uncomfortable. Even though they know they are working towards an admirable goal, they still can’t shake their uneasiness. Her hair contains scenes of violence with the snake and crab attacking the fish and the spider trapping the butterfly. These represent the feeling of being like a predator to the animals we experiment on. Many of the animals portrayed are used in research. These images are intermixed with images that show a more reassuring side of research. These are more personal to my own experiences, but could be generalized to others. For example, her hair features a very faded photo of my grandmother who had Alzheimer’s disease, initially sparking my interest in research. It also features an open winged bird, because many of the mouse carcasses used in research are taken and fed to birds, giving the mice another slightly more natural purpose in addition to their contributions to research. The third category of objects making up her hair, are more classic scientific objects that placed an interest of science in my mind. The girl’s hair features peas and flowers to represent Mendelian genetics, which was one of my first scientific interests. Neurons are also featured as diseases of neurodegeneration are my current interest. My piece was painted entirely in acrylic with a variety of things appliqued onto it including beads, shells, string, feathers, rocks, a paper map, and money along with the clay objects I constructed. Overall, the piece contains a personal account of my experience in research, but also attempts to capture an overall feeling of internal struggle that others may experience doing their own research as well.

This artist book depicts the structure and function of the human heart. It appears as a delicate and organic grouping of pages, held together with twine. As the viewer unties the twine, it begins with three image panels of the entire heart structure: an illustrated rendering that serves as a cover, followed by a vellum protected watercolor rendering, and a mounted, embossed paper rendering. The viewer has to uncover these panels one by one. I have created this opportunity of uncovering as a way for the viewer to interact with, and develop a curiosity about, the human heart. Following the three image panels is a set of bound pages. These pages show a block-printed diagram of the human heart; as the pages are opened, either from the left or the right, there are a series of emphasized, labeled, and explained components of the structure. This piece informs the viewer of the many veins, arteries, chambers, and valves that construct the human heart. It makes the distinction between deoxygenated and oxygenated blood, and mentions that blood is sent to the lungs after being coursed through half of the heart. As I mentioned, I utilized many artistic techniques when making this artist book. Along with the watercolor image panel, there is watercolor detailing on the printed pages. I used an ink transfer oil for the text. I illustrated the printed image of the heart, and then carved the same image into the printing block. I bound the pages with a thread and needle. A variety of materials were used; many artist papers, acrylic and watercolor paints, ink, rubber cement, and twine. This book is an experience for the viewer, not only something to view.

The type of poem I wrote came to me when I first saw the advertisement for this art competition.   I decided to focus on the questions that abound in life, and in our cosmos, which arise out of the mere existence of human minds.   I looked, indirectly, into the emergence of scientific and artistic questions—those that I believe make this universe a beautiful one.  Thus, I used scientific and artistic language throughout the poem.  I also combined the artistic form of expression of poetry with the scientific principle of the Fibonacci sequence.  

 

As for the scientific principle used, the Fibonacci sequence, I was able to incorporate the first integers of the sequence into the lines of each of the poem’s stanzas.  For instance, the order of the syllables progressed positively, as: 0-1-1-2-3-5-8-13.  Instead of beginning a new stanza at the end of that positive sequence, I chose to style the poem in an even more symmetrical way—by reversing the sequence after the 13-syllable line of the stanza.  What I found interesting was that the 0 syllable would serve as a line-break: differentiating the stanzas.  Like the essence of this poem—or at least what I was working towards—the text unfolded naturally such as in this organic line break. 

 

When it comes to the language I used, I worked to delineate the feeling of the correspondence and intersection of art and science.  Specifically, I expressed the nature of questions as being the mother of artistic and scientific explorations for humans.  Hence, the two fields must be interrelated, in my view, by the very fact that they are born from the same source: human questioning of the cosmos.  I believe this is both an artistic and scientific concept.

I wrote this poem after taking a Physics of Music class at the University. We were speaking about the moon that day — specifically, about the moon’s effect on creating tides in the water. My professor mentioned this phenomena in passing, and, while I’d previously learned about the effect of the moon on ocean tides, I found myself being absolutely struck by the ways in which science serves as such an inspiration for poetry. In this case, I was specifically fascinated by how the gravitational pull of the moon can create tides in our oceans. This relationship between distance sparked the premise of the poem. This poem was my personal response to such a scientific phenomenon, and, more particularly, to the distance that I feel as a human subject when standing beneath the moon. I was curious about the ways in which humans respond to science — what science can explain, and also, what it does not explain by law (i.e. “I want to touch the moon on its limp face—/ physics won’t let me”). Moreover, I wanted to capture the mysterious — even stunning — scientific relationship with what has long been viewed as a “poetic body”: the moon. I was fascinated by the way science acts as such a full and vast field for poetry, and for the self. So often, people think of the poetic as inaccessible, emotional, or vulnerable. However, in this poem, I attempted to speak about the awe that human subjects have in relation to the massive bodily components of science.

As I was walking along the corridors of East Hall, I noticed a particular picture on the wall: it was picture of neurons at the microscopic level. I noticed how similar a neuron was to the structure of a tree. To me, the branched nature of the neuron dendrites were like tree roots, the axon was like a trunk, and the axon terminals were like branches. I was inspired by the beautiful design of the neuron and wanted to showcase it into a painting.

 

I used acrylic paint, watercolor, and ink to create the artwork. To start, I used a green background to suggest Mother Nature and life. The colorful splatter dots were added to produce a sense of magic. Finally, I arranged the neurons in a row to create a forest setting. All combined, my goal was to evoke a sense of wonder about the natural world by depicting the neurons as trees. I hope viewers will be able to appreciate the neuron both as a vital mechanism to maintain life and also as a beautiful organic design.

 

The type of neuron I chose for the painting was the pyramidal neuron, named after its triangular-shaped cell body. These neurons are generally found in the cerebral cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala. Two main functions for pyramidal neurons are motor control and cognitive ability. For me, it was fascinating to think of neurons as the cellular components crucial for our thoughts, actions, and perceptions. Even abstract concepts such as love and have a physical manifestation in neurons.  Especially, I thought it was intriguing to think of neurons as the cellular component for everything we learn in the world, and that even our identities rely on neuronal circuits.

 

Finally, I titled the piece “Vitality” because I was inspired by the continuance of life during the course of winter. The painting reminded me of a wintery forest with barren trees. Although it seems as though the trees are dead, they are still alive underneath to reemerge in the spring. Overall, I wanted to emphasize the idea of life. That is, how trees survive the winter and how neurons are a vital component in life.