Science Art-Nature


What is
Science Art?


The drug Tamiflu halting the progression of the influenza virus in flu sufferers. The drug (yellow) plugs the active site of an important enzyme (red) on the virus surface (green), preventing the virus from replicating.

Science Art continuing education----an example of classes that combine science and art, is a 6-week course through the Stanford Continuing Studies Program this fall called The Big Picture: Visual Strategies for Effective Science Communication. It covers core concepts of visual design and narrative for researchers, health care providers, educators, entrepreneurs... anyone challenged by the need to communicate complex science concepts effectively. Registration opened Aug 20, 2012 and is limited to 40.

Project Background
Collisions was originally a four-piece ensemble, hand-drawn with ink but appears here as a digitally-edited single image. It was created within the pilot year of the Stanford Senior Reflection Program 2010-2011, which was led by Prof. Susan McConnell and Prof. Andrew Todhunter. The program was a forum to explore the connections between biology and the arts, and was open to all majors.

Collisions is an attempt to mesh the world of molecular biology of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with the very human experience of living with the disease. RA is an autoimmune disease of the synovial joints, the most moveable joints in the human body, such as those found in the hands and knees. The disease causes pain and immobility due to inflamed synovial tissue growth that eats away at the cartilage and, in severe cases, the bone.

Collisions by Catherine Le ©2012 ScienceArt-Biology

I interviewed eight volunteers who shared their stories of diagnoses, treatments and perseverance. Chosen quotes from the interviews overlay a depiction of my own representation of RA from the tissue level down to the cellular and molecular levels. My goal was to create a visually appealing representation that honored the experiences and insights the patients shared during their interview. It was interesting to create an artwork capable of reversing the viewer’s initial expectations: It is the words of the patients, not their cells, that emerge when zooming into the image.

The Rollover is a zoomed in look at the second panel. This panel depicts the clash between the growing synovial tissue in the joint that begins to encroach and destroy the cartilage and bone. Synovial tissue in rheumatoid arthritis becomes inflamed and proliferating. Within it, there are cells that release chemical signals that cause reactions that eat away at the cartilage and eventually the bone. Within the cells of the cartilage on the left, a bold quote says, "It's hard to communicate what it's like to have RA." The theme of the second panel is miscommunication between patients and doctors and between those who are living with the disease and those who are not.

  Artist Catherine Le graduated from Stanford University in 2011 with a degree in Biology and minor in English. She currently works at a genome database company in the South Bay and is still trying to find her path in the world.