by Emily Grieve
16th January 2015
Our CIIE micro-residency artists regrouped for an afternoon of inspiring demonstrations, talks and tours from CIIE scientists.
Inside the room, affectionately known by scientists as ‘the fishbowl’, is where artists will be based throughout the residency. Our first talk took place here with CIIE Fellow Melissa Ward studying antibiotic resistance, epidemiology and genetics of bacteria. Melissa explained some of her work on the spread of E.coli in Nairobi, working closely with the International Livestock Research Institute of Nairobi. The region is of specific interest to Melissa with the massive spectrum of different housing types effecting spread of bacteria. It was fascinating to discover how local people are trained to collect data and transport samples by motorbike, to weave in and out of the busy Nairobi traffic to keep samples fresh.
This was followed by a demonstration from CIIE Fellow Laura Politt, who’s research focusses on understanding the interactions between parasites. Looking at the mosquitoes under the microscope gave us all a new appreciation for these tiny creatures. We all agreed we would now think twice before swotting one of these intricately insects. Laura’s demonstration also included a fascinating mosquito dissection, giving us an understanding of how a dissection on this minute scale can be carried out.
Next, artists were interviewed for Biopod, the podcast for the school of biological sciences. PhD student Didi conducted some engaging interviews with the artists and they discussed the methodologies they might use in bringing science to wider audiences, highlighting interesting crossovers in their practices.
After being interviewed, artists were given a tour of the Edinburgh Genomics Facilities and Natural History Collection by Prof. Mark Blaxter, who researches genomics of non-vertebrate animals including parasites and pathogens. Mark talked us through the sequencing systems offered by the Edinburgh Genomics Facilities, which has the largest sequencing capacity in the UK. These systems can produce raw data from billions of DNA and RNA molecules. Mark presented us with some interesting points on the advancement of scientific technology for scientists and explained how these technologies can produce data that can be applied to many different fields. Mark ended his tour with us in the Natural History Collection of the University of Edinburgh. The eclectic collection of objects and specimens from over 300 years was extremely impressive. The ghostly appearance of the perfectly preserved creatures in formaldehyde sparked immediate curiosity from us all.
Artist talks then followed. This gave artists the opportunity to show scientists what they do. It was great for scientists to get a chance to see artists work get an insight into the range of their individual practises. Each artist introduced themselves and their practice and presented examples of their work. This created a real sense enthusiasm from both the scientists and the artists and discussions continued over drinks in the Darwin Dance Hall.
As the residency continues the similarities between artists and scientists becomes more and more apparent, with creativity being a key element of both the scientist and the artist.