Welcome to Exploring Science Through Art: Artist-in-Residence

Instructor: Kendra H. Oliver, Ph.D. Email: kendra.h.oliver@Vanderbilt.edu 

Instructor: Garrett Kaas, Ph.D. Email: Garrett.kaas@Vanderbilt.edu

Visuals and the media play a critical role in transmitting and disseminating scientific knowledge, but there is an apparent disconnect between research and the public. Better communication approaches are needed to address this divide, particularly in the form of visual art. This iSeminar is an opportunity for first-year Vanderbilt students to participate in an “artist-in-residence”  (AiR) experience. The students will hear and visit a variety of research laboratories. The course will promote multi-disciplinary approaches for students to develop a creative visual communication strategy to explore scientific concepts. Laboratories will engage in this experience including those with research areas in drug discovery, microbiology, epigenetics, precision medicine, and signaling mechanisms. Through this experience, you will be challenged to distill key scientific concepts into clear and concise components of visual art for a final public exhibition.

  • How do you communicate science concepts visually?
  • How do we communicate science accurately using visuals?
  • How do you avoid jargon and language barriers when communicating science?
  • How do you make artwork interactive and a multi-directional conversation?

We will use fourteen 50-minute sessions to discuss the questions listed above with a multi-disciplinary panel of speakers from across the university. Classes will include trips to visit research investigators in their laboratories. There will be no reading or writing assignments, but the class will use a blog to comment and post examples of visual science communication concepts relevant to the course. A blog prompt will be given for each class session. During the first class, we design the final rubric that will be used to grade final projects. The development of the final project based on a Vanderbilt laboratory will highlight critical thinking approaches to design and communicate an essential scientific concept. The instructors will communicate with the students frequently and will use both attendance, blog participation, and the final project to evaluate the student’s performance. Students will also participate in a final exhibition that will be held at the end of the semester at the Wond’ry as a part of ArtLab. This exhibition will be open to the public. Additionally, as suggested in the first-year teaching guide, students will write a letter to their successors for advice in succeeding in the course as a final blog post. Most importantly, the concepts that will be discussed in the class will directly relate to real-world issues associated with building a stronger relationship between science and the public.