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Sister Act: Collaboration brings science and art together

The Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology, and Inflammation’s Artist in Residence (AiR) program creates a community of artists and scientists to communicate scientific discoveries to a broader audience. Since 2017, AiR has virtually connected undergraduate artists with scientific research labs across the country as a way to increase the reach of scientific discoveries through art.

Sisters Ayoola (left) and Anu (right) collaborate to create artwork.

Collaboration is at the heart of the AiR program. Current AiR artist Ayoola Oladimeji, a rising sophomore at William and Mary (Williamsburg, VA), collaborates with her younger sister, Anu Oladimeji, a rising high school sophomore at Northwood Academy (Summerville, SC), to create artwork together. Ayoola is working with Dr. Annet Kirabo’s lab at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Kirabo is researching the negative impact of high salt intake on the immune system.

When asked about the sisters’ collaborative process, Ayoola said, “We use a concept map and brainstorm, writing down whatever ideas come to mind. Then we narrow down the ideas and come up with a way to illustrate it.” The sisters have created art together before, however this program is the first time the sisters have created scientifically focused art. With Anu’s help reading scientific articles from Dr. Kirabo’s lab, Ayoola generates mixed media artwork as part of the AiR program. Ayoola believes collaboration is important because “when more minds work on a project, the better the outcome.” Their approach nurtures research-inspired artwork like the image seen here titled “The Living Tree.”

“The Living Tree” was created by Ayoola and Anu using mixed media – primarily sketches and digital art.

In line with the AiR’s mission to promote an equitable and multidisciplinary community to broaden the reach of scientific research through art, Ayoola and Anu hope their art appeals to their community. With dreams of practicing medicine in the future, Ayoola explained that creating art provides “an outlet to communicate a scientific concept using our creativity.” The AiR program has proven that this approach to communicating science to an audience outside of the research community is effective, and we at the AiR program are glad to see future leaders championing collaborative work!

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