Interdisciplinarity: Artistic merit
By Virginia Gewin, Nature, April 2013
"Options abound for scientists who want to get in touch with their inner artist, whether professionally or as a hobby.
Christina Agapakis thought that her interest in art would always be separate from her pursuit of science, especially once she had decided to do postgraduate studies in biology.
But she found ways to meld the two. While earning her PhD in biomedical sciences at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Agapakis joined a social experiment called Synthetic Aesthetics. A joint project of the University of Edinburgh, UK, and Stanford University in California, funded by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Synthetic Aesthetics teamed artists and designers with synthetic biologists and encouraged them to come up with interdisciplinary ideas and projects. Agapakis worked with Sissel Tolaas, a researcher and scent artist resident in Berlin. Together, they made cheese — using starter cultures made of bacteria isolated from the human body. They wanted to make the unseen biological world perceptible to the senses, and to call attention to how synthetic biology might alter microbial communities. “The creativity of designing, rather than studying, biology is really exciting for me,” says Agapakis."
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Published online24 April 2013