Finding the Art in Science

Written by Dr. Karen Z. Lancaster, Teacher of  Biology and Advanced Molecular and Cellular Biology

Science in Art (13)In March, students in Baldwin’s Advanced Topics (AT) Biology class had the opportunity to enhance their neuroscience unit through nontraditional mediums, including a neuroscience symposium, guided human brain dissection and a field trip to the Mütter Museum that included a workshop on the brain. Students were also challenged to connect science with art by exploring careers in medical illustration and art in science research.

To kick off this series, AT Biology hosted four world class researchers from the University of Pennsylvania to discuss their projects within diverse fields of neuroscience research. The speakers discussed topics ranging from the effects of elevated alcohol intake on the dopamine reward system, the effects of flavorants in e-cigarettes to nicotine addiction, mapping brain circuits that regulate anxiety and influence addiction, to optogenetic approaches for investigating the neurobiology of pain. Click here for more information.

Following the symposium, Baldwin invited Dr. Brian Balin from the College of Osteopathic Medicine to present on Alzheimer’s disease. After a discussion on mechanisms thought to contribute to the disease and other neurodegenerative diseases in general, he led a guided dissection of the human brain. Students were given the opportunity to compare and contrast healthy brain tissue against degenerative specimens.

To conclude the series, Baldwin’s AT class visited Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, where they were allowed to explore exhibits of their interest and participate in an hour-long workshop on the brain. During the workshop, students learned about different brain diseases while also looking at interesting case studies and pathology specimens. After learning about these diseases, students were provided brain samples and asked to diagnose the diseases present.

Finally students were challenged to engage both the right and left brains in science by creating any artistic piece that encompassed medical illustration or art in science research. The submissions were as diverse as our Baldwin girls. We had some phenomenal medical illustrations by Gillian Chestnut ‘17, Madeleine Marr ‘17, Anika Iyer ‘17 and Olivia Lanchoney ‘17. Gillian depicted an accurate before and after injury illustration of an ACL tear. Madeleine constructed a video montage complete with sound track of her dental reconstruction. Anika drew a slightly caricatured picture of an HIV particle highlighting the tertiary protein structure, and Olivia chose the brain as her muse, depicting multiple layers of organization and angles of the many varied regions of the brain.

We also had poetry submissions contributed by Jessica Zhang ‘17, Georgia Spies ‘17 and Madison Sanders ‘17. Jessica contributed three submissions, each a little vignette of a different neurotransmitter, accurately evoking the feel and nervous system function of each. Georgia also chose the brain for her poem and 3D printed an anatomically correct brain to accompany her work. Madison’s poem became the backdrop of our gallery as she recorded herself performing her poem on the brain soul connection.

Pallavi Sreedhar ‘17 and Angela Smith ‘17 both made models of the nervous system. Pallavi focused on the molecular synapse while Angela zoomed out and depicted the specialized functions of the lobes of the cerebral cortex.

Alexa Bartels ‘17 reflected on her family trait of blue eyes to construct a pedigree chart showing how a recessive genetic trait appears more often than predicted in her family lineage. Sally Chen ‘17 was a unique piece where she made an interactive flip work of the major organ systems in a Baldwin girl. Roya Alidjani ‘17 collected and stained her own cheek cells and then took pictures of them under the microscope. In a nod to Andy Warhol she presented variations of her cells with different colored dyes.

Last but not least, two incredibly artistic drawings were submitted by Lilly Tang ‘17 and Annie Xu ‘17. Lilly constructed an anatomically accurate human head and skull artistically intertwined with an underwater scene while Annie submitted a fun and creative steampunk heart. Congrats on all the hard work to a truly outstanding group of Baldwin seniors and thank you to Sumi Mudgil ‘17 for her contributions to the article.

View a media gallery of the ‘Art in Science’ exhibit.