Bio-Design Lab: One Weekend to Imagine Future Bio-Innovation

With the aim to challenge and inspire the world’s next innovative and creative minds, the University of Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences and Edinburgh College Art are delighted to launch ‘Bio-Design Lab’, a two day workshop in ASCUS Lab at Edinburgh’s creative hub Summerhall.

Bio-Design Lab
Saturday & Sunday, 4th & 5th May 2019

Open to 20 students studying biology or art & design, this is a unique chance to gain first-hand exposure to innovation and research within the emerging field of biodesign through the guidance of world-leading pioneers. Participants will have the opportunity to delve into biodesign, collaborating together to foster new ways of creative problem solving.

The workshop will be hosted in ASCUS Lab, which has been the incubator for many exciting interdisciplinary connections. It will be comprised of practical activities to solve societal problems or explore the potentials of biological phenomena. Experiment with the materiality of this field through the range of resources available for you, such as microscopes, living organisms, molecular biology tools and more.

The workshop aims to help develop design methods for creative biotechnology and speculative design. Are you an art/design student whose creative practice is bio-based or -inspired? Or a biology student with a strong interest in art-science collaborations to hone ‘out-of-box’ thinking? Come join us for two days of experimentation with biodesign! No prior experience required, as long as you can demonstrate your genuine interest.


    • Student or early career researcher/practitioner in the field of art/design and biological sciences
    • Strong interest in trying out project development at the interface of bio/design
    • No prior experience in Bio-design required

Instructors and Partners

Carole Collet (Central Saint Martins/UAL)
Helene Steiner (Open Cell)
Dr Louise Mackenzie (Independent visual artist, BxNU, Northumbria and Newcastle University)
Larissa Pschetz & Dr Bettina Nissen (University of Edinburgh, ECA)
Naomi Nakayama & Elise Cachat (University of Edinburgh, SBS)
Miriam Walsh & Jemma Pilcher (ASCUS Lab)

More Info and How to Apply

Saturday & Sunday,
4th & 5th May 2019
Participation in this workshop is FREE, with £100 travel and accommodation bursary available for students travelling from outside Edinburgh
30th March 2019

More about our instructors and partners

Carole Collet is Professor in Design for Sustainable Futures at Central Saint Martins (CSM), University of the Arts London where she currently holds two key roles. As CSM-LVMH Director of Sustainable Innovation, she set up Maison/0, an incubator of creative sustainable intelligence, in partnership with the luxury group LVMH. As an educator, she has pioneered the integration of sustainability in the curriculum by creating new courses such as MA Textile Futures in 2001 (now Material Futures) and more recently, in 2018, the first MA in Biodesign.

Dr Louise Mackenzie is an artist and researcher who explores human behavior and the evolution of society through art practice. With a background in psychology and an interest in philosophy, Mackenzie uses human-made objects as a starting point for exploration. Mackenzie’s recent work focuses on aspects of biological matter that she describes as ‘lively material’. Louise is a member of the Cultural Negotiation of Science research group, Northumbria University, an Associate of the Institute of Genetic Medicine, Newcastle University and holds a PhD in Fine Art from BxNU, a BALTIC and Northumbria University partnership.  Her artworks have been exhibited in Madrid, Durham, Edinburgh, Newcastle, London, Shanghai and Taiwan.

Helene Steiner is a designer and engineer who works at the interface between technology and science. She co-founded Open Cell with the mission to provide affordable lab space to early stage startups innovating at the intersection of design and biology. She is the co-founder of a biotech company, Cell-Free Technology, where she develops computational and biological design tools for proteins and materials and leads the biomaterial platform at the fashion department at the Royal College of Art. She was previously a postdoc research fellow in Microsoft Research Cambridge where she developed biological interfaces.

Dr Larissa Pschetz is a researcher and lecturer in Design Informatics, and Programme Director of Product Design at the University of Edinburgh. She has collaborated with biologists, social scientists, and the Edinburgh Genome Foundry in Biodesign projects, and taught a Biodesign course together with Naomi Nakayama for two years. Larissa has a background in Interaction Design, having worked at design agencies such as HID in Hamburg, IXDS in Berlin, and companies such as IBM Research in U.S. and Microsoft Research in China and the UK. Her research broadly focuses on socio-technological narratives and how they can influence and be shaped by design practice.
Dr Bettina Nissen is a Lecturer in Interaction Design and design researcher in Design Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. With a background in digital fabrication, product and interaction design, she has a continuing interest in the changing materials and materiality of design and how we design with evolving matter. Increasingly Bettina’s research interest has expanded into data materials and how we encounter, engage or communicate with and through them. She has exhibited her design work internationally in Berlin, London, Milan and New York and completed an AHRC-funded PhD in Human Computer Interaction at Culture Lab, Newcastle University.
Dr Naomi Nakayama studies the functional designs of living organisms, incorporating engineering approaches such as synthetic biology. Since 2013, she is a senior research fellow (a type of assistant professor) at the University of Edinburgh. She was an instructor for the Edinburgh cohort of Biodesign Challenge in 2016 and 2017 and explores design thinking approaches to enhance creativity in scientific research and innovation.
Dr Elise Cachat is a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh in the School of Life Sciences. She teaches synthetic biology, microbiology and supervises UoE student teams in the annual iGEM competition. Her research focuses on engineering mammalian cells to perform novel functions for various biomedical applications. Elise is also involved in collaborative projects between biologists, engineers, social scientists and artists.
Miriam Walsh is the Managing Director of ASCUS Art & Science, she is a curator and artist and has been designing the ASCUS creative programme, exploring the interface of art and science, since 2014. She manages the organisations art-science residencies and curates the associated exhibitions, including the annual visual arts programme for Edinburgh Science Festival. She has a background in interdisciplinary practices, including arts in health, arts and disability and her interests lie in exploring new ways of combining creative approaches with other disciplines.
Jemma Pilcher is a Lab Technician with the ASCUS Lab, as well as a Neuroscience PhD student at the University of Edinburgh. She is passionate about projects that use art and science to create new innovative ways of understanding the world and solving problems. During her undergraduate training as a biochemist, she became fascinated with synthetic biology and bio-design, and was a member of the Imperial College London iGEM team in 2013.

In Partnership with:

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