Former Professor of Art Challenges Science Interns to Find Deeper Meaning in Research; George Mason University and The National Institutes of Health Accept Challenge

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Rebecca Kamen, artist and former professor of art, continues research on the intersection of art education, scientific discovery, and innovation by challenging science interns at George Mason University and The National Institutes of Health to consider their research results through an artistic lens.

Rebecca Kamen today announced the 2013 art/science challenge for science interns at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and participants in the Aspiring Science Summer Internship Program (ASSIP) at George Mason University. Kamen, a professor of art who recently retired from Northern Virginia Community College to continue her research on the relationship between art education and scientific discovery, is challenging young scientists to look at their work a bit differently. In addition to performing hands-on scientific research, the interns at both campuses will be interpreting their research through the artistic mediums of their choice and will present their findings at the end of their summer programs. This is the third year George Mason University has worked with Kamen and the second year for the NIH.

"George Mason University prides itself at being on the forefront of discovery and innovation. We founded the ASSIP Program to advance the possibilities that breakthrough science brings to the world. Our researchers work on real-world projects with extremely bright and motivated high school and college level students. They learn real science. Some of the Aspiring Scientists have co-authored peer-reviewed publications and discovered patentable technologies. To further enhance the practical research experience, we use the art challenge to encourage the interns to look at their research from a very different perspective. It’s this framework that enables them to dig deeper by asking the questions about how things work and relate to one another," states Amy VanMeter, Director of the Aspiring Scientists Summer Internship Program.

"The ASSIP Program also breaks with traditional science in another very important way," continues VanMeter. "This year, I’ve placed the interns in cross-disciplinary teams so they see how each specific area of research relates to all of the other disciplines we’re researching, which includes nanotechnology, bioengineering, bioinformatics, neuroscience, proteomics, and genomic analysis. Avoiding traditional research silos is fundamental to creating greater potential for breakthrough discoveries."

The art/science challenge enables science interns to understand that the creative process needed to conduct the highest quality research and develop artwork is actually the same process. The ability to understand and express findings through different mediums creates the added value.

Prior year’s successes include the publication of Spatial Memory (an image of the hippocampus created by students working in Dr. Ted Dumas’ laboratory at Mason: Himika Rahman, Alexa Corso, Man Hua Zhu and Akshay Deverakonda) as the cover illustration in the 11th volume of Neuroinformatics. Kamen’s work with the interns at George Mason University and NIH inspires countless others. Last summer, the Science Museum of Virginia displayed the ASSIP students’ work alongside of Kamen’s.

"Seeing work that was very well done by people who were not trained as artists but were able to rise to the task when science was the subject matter inspired us," says Frank Heller, Manager of Artistic Development for the Science Museum of Virginia. "The museum strives to create an enjoyable place for people to experience science. We want the children who come here to question their worlds and learn through the discovery process."

About Rebecca Kamen

Rebecca Kamen, retired Professor of Art, taught more than 300 classes at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) over the last 35 years. In 2011, Kamen was awarded a Chancellor’s Commonwealth Professorship by the Virginia Community College System, which has enabled her to work with leading academic and scientific research institutions in the United States including Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the National Institutes of Health, and George Mason University. This work has contributed significantly to the STEM to STEAM initiative in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Kamen holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Sculpture from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).

Kamen has exhibited and lectured both nationally, and internationally. She has been the recipient of a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Professional Fellowship, a Pollack Krasner Foundation Fellowship, a Strauss Fellowship, an NIH Artist in Residency, and a Travel Grant from the Chemical Heritage Foundation. Her artwork is represented in many private and public collections.

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