The Seth Bordenstein Lab
The Bordenstein laboratory endeavors to understand and disseminate the principles that shape interactions between animals, microbes, and viruses and the basic and translational outcomes of these interactions.
Emily Layton - 2020 AiR Student
I’ve been the president of the illustration club in my high school for three years so I’ve spent a lot of time drawing illustrations, but none of them are related to science. I usually brainstorm and plan exhaustively in my mind for a long time. After that, I make a sketch, revise a little, and finish the drawing. Dealing with scientific topics, I research a lot before brainstorming and also ask for a lot of feedback from my mentor. This process takes more time, but it’s also more interesting and challenging. My works show how the iron-handling abilities of macrophages differ when there are extra iron in lean and obese animals and how macrophages and adipocyte react to the excess iron. Two core concepts are: MFehi macrophages are macrophages with a high iron concentration in adipose tissue, while MFelo macrophages are macrophages with a low iron concentration in adipose tissue. My overall experience has been very great. I talked with very amazing researchers, understood a lot of scientific concepts that I’ve never known before, and challenged myself by converting complex theories to understandable drawings and by continue evaluating my works from the perspective of viewers.
Sophie Stark - 2019 AiR Student
Sophia Stark has worked in Vanderbilt's Bioarchaeology and Stable Isotope Research Lab under Dr. Tung for around a year. Stark assist Dr. Tung and graduate students with collagen and enamel sample preparation, processing, and data entry. In addition to her work in the lab, she has worked on two archaeological excavations, one in Huancavelica, Peru, and the other in Caesarea, Israel. During these projects she assisted with excavation, cleaning, and analysis of artifacts and human remains.
Stark is currently a Studio Art major at Vanderbilt, and has dabbled in a variety of mediums. The majority of her work has been sculptural, due to her background in special effects make up and costume design. She has adapted these techniques and materials to her current style, which favors materials like silicone and resin. Recently, she has become interested in oil painting and printmaking processes to create two-dimensional works as well. Much of her artwork is centered around the theme of body horror and exposed viscera. Stark often creates works based on personal emotional experiences, and uses body horror to depict devastation in a visceral visual image.
As a double major in both Anthropology and Studio Art, Stark is always looking for an opportunity to merge her love of science and art. Much of her artwork is based around a personal interest in human anatomy, which has been cultivated throughout her science education and strengthened by a focus in Bioarchaeology. When Stark references science-related topics in my artwork, she always begins by reading about the topic. From there, she attempts to find a key idea in the text that would suit either her preferred medium or concept. In this case, the scientific topic lent itself best to the sculptural qualities and transparency of silicone. Stark believes that one challenge of creating art for publication is limiting the color scheme and detail to communicate the concept clearly. Her personal work favors shades of blue, red, and purple, so she attempted to apply this color scheme to the work.
This particular piece was meant to demonstrate the broad concept of the biosphere, where different bacteria interact through the plants and animals that host them. Stark’s mentor for this project, Seth Bordenstein, works more specifically with phages in the bodies of humans and insects. However, for this piece, they decided to communicate the presence of bacterial phages on a larger scale. Therefore, Stark decided to create a sculpture of some of the Tennessee state plants and animals composed of various bacteria. The sculpture is a low relief style in silicone, which makes for an interesting transparency and vibrant color scheme in a photograph.
Stark believes that through the VI4 Summer Artist-in-Residence program she was challenged to bridge the gap between her interest in art and science. She finds she has become a better collaborator through this experience, and hopes to continue making art for scientific publications in the future.
Suggested Learning activities
Fei Yang - 2019 AiR Student
In the introduction to biological sciences course, the fascinating story between a type of bacteria called Wolbachia and fruit flies left a lasting memory. While the rest of the course material might be fading, the image of a bacteria hiding out inside a flies’ reproductive organ, and eventually controlling its reproduction remains vivid. Through communication with the Bordenstein lab, which studies Wolbachia, I came up with a series of three artworks that continues to zoom in on a fruit fly. This eventually abstractly depicts DNA coming out of a virus called WO, coming out of Wolbachia bacteria, coming out of testies of fruit flies. Many of the details in the artworks are inspired by descriptions of organelles, structures of microorganisms, etc. While not so precise in terms of scale or anatomy, I personally enjoyed the process of imagining the microscopic world of epic conflicts.
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