Alexa Marcus has always had a passion for art and science, but only recently has she explored how the two can intersect in a unique and useful way. Alexa's interest in art began early in her life and more recently culminated into taking drawing courses throughout high school and college and starting her own freelance creative services business (alexamarcusdesigns.com). This creative services business has opened up a new world of art for Alexa, as graphic design is a relatively new medium for her. Alexa offers her clientele, made up of small businesses, a comprehensive branding package, from logo design to brand identity. Along with this budding business, she also has a growing interest in how humans interact and behave, leading her to major in Human and Organizational Development and minor in Neuroscience and Business.
Because of these interests, she was inspired to join the first ArtLab class offered at Vanderbilt her freshman year. Alexa was able to explore the intersection of art and science through the creation of a painting based on research from the Calipari lab. This course inspired her to join the ArtLab this summer and partner with the Skaar lab. Alexa has enjoyed using her art talents to portray scientific findings in an engaging and accurate way. Her work ranges across the mediums acrylic paint and graphic design. She hopes that her abstract pieces will draw in a variety of audiences and urge them to delve deeper into the meaning behind these pieces.
As an artist I am interested in process-based conceptual art. I enjoy navigating the space between tangible and intangible, and sharing that exploration with a community; therefore, my art captures the ideas, and intellectual inspiration that I have shared with others and instills the same emotions that I experienced in those interactions. In the AiR program I was interested in personifying bacteria to characterize interactions in the body through emotions that are simple to conceptualize.
Mariam Sanusi minored in Studio Arts minor at Vanderbilt University, where she was also a member of the Keffi Student art collective, and exhibited works both on campus and at several local shows in the Nashville area. She has Illustrated two children’s books: ‘Learning to be a Friend’ (2015) and ‘Farzana’s Journey’ (2017). Her most recent commission was a background illustration for a Ted X Talk in Vancouver on Lion Conservation in Africa. You can find her on instagram @ayodoodles. After being assigned a lab, the artist met with five researchers working on individual projects to talk about their research questions, experiments and results. After speaking with researchers in the lab over the course of several days, and gathering more relevant info, two projects out of the five were chosen to be worked on. Afterwards, the artist created a mind map of associations, which were used to create initial first sketches for feedback and review. With the input obtained from these sketches, the final three images were created and polished using Adobe photoshop. Due to the highly detailed and technical nature of science, fact-checking occurred more frequently during every phase of this artistic process, as compared to previous projects. For instance, when selecting a color scheme, the staph pathogen was colored purple due to the fact that when stained in a petri dish, the clusters appear to be violet in color. Scientific accuracy always had to be taken into account, beyond considering aesthetics or cohesiveness, The Skaar Lab which commissioned the pieces focused on the nutrition interaction between bacterial pathogens and vertebrae hosts . The first project was concerned with acinetobacter baumannii (emerging cause of pneumonia and wound infections) , an opportunistic pathogen which competed with the body for important metals needed for growth, in this case, iron in the lungs. The second was about NETosis, a defense mechanism used by neutrophils (*white blood cells) in the body to fight the pathogen, staphylococcus aureus (common cause of skin and soft tissue infections), and how people with the auto-immune disease, lupus are more susceptible to staph due to the reduced ability to carry out NETosis. Overall, it was a fulfilling and challenging experience, in terms of working with fascinating content and formulating new & creative ways to communicate these concepts accurately. The final images are to be submitted for consideration as cover art for a few journals were the researchers are submitting their papers for publishing. In addition, they are also a welcome addition to an artist portfolio to display versatility and variety
Ayo Sanusi -2019 AiR Student
I am an undergraduate sophomore who took the Commons iSeminar Communicating Art Through Science with Dr. Oliver last semester. My artistic process for both scientific and non-scientific endeavors involves finding visual metaphors that communicate the main findings of the work. Visual metaphors are similar to analogies in that they both use simple, widely understood relationships to help communicate a more complex idea. However, visual metaphors use images to convey the message, while analogies are typically written or verbal. To brainstorm, I make note of the “main players” of the relationship that I am trying to depict and think of qualities that one might attribute to these “main players.” For a scientific publication, I would try to demonstrate the findings of the paper. Then, I find symbols that embody these qualities. Importantly, these symbols need to be easily recognizable. Then, I draw the relationships between these symbols in a way that is similar to the relationship between the “main players.” For example, in this art for Dr. Erin Green of the Skaar lab, we wanted to show that the regular MumR in the bacteria Acinetobacter baumannii is important in combating manganese starvation and contributes to H2O2 resistance, promoting virulence. I wanted to depict the relationship between MumR and the ability of A. baumannii to invade a host. In my art, A. baumannii is shown as an alien in a spaceship invading a planet. Because A. baumannii is a bacterial invader, I thought that it was fitting to depict the bacteria as space invaders, hence the spaceships. Additionally, in popular culture, bacteria, like aliens, are often depicted as slimy green organisms. Because MumR helps combat manganese starvation, I decided to make the backdrop a desert, as deserts are known to be places of scarcity. Manganese can be seen as a few gray blobs in the sand. It can be seen that despite the rarity of manganese in the desert, the aliens are still able to invade the planet. The planet’s defense system is represented by immune cells and H2O2, a reactive oxygen species. The immune cells are shown as a white fighter jet trying to shoot down the alien spaceships with bubbles of H2O2. However, just as MumR contributes to H2O2 resistance, the shieldlike forcefields around the alien spaceships help protect them against the assault.
Jessica Mo - 2019 AiR Student
The Eric skaar Lab
In order for bacterial pathogens to cause disease, they must obtain nutrients inside their vertebrate hosts. The primary nutrients that are limiting to the growth of bacteria inside vertebrates are metals. This is due to the fact that vertebrates have developed numerous metal chelation systems that serve as a host defense against microbial infection. This process is called nutritional immunity. My laboratory is interested in identifying the host and bacterial factors that are involved in this battle for metal during the pathogenesis of infectious diseases. We use techniques from biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, and chemistry to answer fundamental questions pertaining to the host-pathogen interaction. In particular, we focus on diseases caused by the important human pathogens Staphylococcus aureus (Staph infections), Bacillus anthracis (Anthrax), and Acinetobacter baumannii (leading cause of hospital infections and battlefield wound infections). The long term goal of our research is to develop novel therapies to treat microbial diseases.
Suggested Learning activities
Submit your artwork now!