Microbial Musing

Have you ever wondered what makes Michele Banks tick? Nature Microbiology did. So, they asked her. You can read their interview with Michele here and gaze upon her lovely artwork for their homepage here.

Nature Microbiology: When did you first become exposed to scientific images?

Michele Banks: I started doing watercolours about 15 years ago. I was mainly working in pure abstraction, just playing with colour and with the properties of the paint. One of the things I love to do is wet-in-wet technique, which gives a ‘bleeding’ effect. I showed some of my wet-in-wet work at the Children’s National Medical Center here in Washington DC about 10 years ago, and they told me they liked my work because it looked like things under a microscope.

We hope the interest in the overlap of science and art will be a theme that continues throughout future Nature Microbiology issues – also open access, gender balance in publishing, shying away from bogus impact factors. etc. etc…

This Week in Virology Art

The most recent guest on This Week in Virology (or TWiV) is none other than our own Michele Banks. Michele welcomes host Vincent Racaniello of Columbia University into her home for an extended conversation about the hows and whys of her science-inspired art.

For those of you who are not regular readers of Michele’s Art of Science series, what I have always found fascinating about discussing art and the process of creation with Michele, is her engagement with the current art world and the history of art, with an honesty and clarity that is quite brave – when so many artists armor themselves (like scientists) against public judgment in overly complex jargon.

I can’t send Michele to everyone’s living room to have that conversation with you; but, thanks to TWiV, I can send Michele’s living room to you.

Science Caturday: Kitty Biome, DIY Guide

Dr. Jennifer Gardy provided a step-by-step guide to making science out of cat poop on Twitter, which was subsequently catalogued by our own Michele Banks, guru of Science Cats and Science Scarves (yes, this is a subtle reference to Dr. Gardy wearing an Artologica scarf in the photo series – now rendered unsubtler).


Art of Science: Send Me to the Arctic, for Science and Art

Help support my art-science residency in Finland and this Reindeer Moss could be yours.
Help support my art-science residency in Finland and this Reindeer Moss could be yours.

I have been writing about the intersection of science and art here at The Finch & Pea for the past 3 years. I’ve been painting cells, bacteria, viruses and more for even longer, but I’ve never had the opportunity to work with real scientists in a lab – until now! I’ve been selected to be the Artist-in-Residence at the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station in Finland in October and November 2015.

This is Kilpisjärvi. Photo by Tea Karvinen
This is Kilpisjärvi. Photo by Tea Karvinen

I’m very excited about this opportunity and I’m asking for your help to make it happen. I just launched an Indiegogo campaign to help pay my expenses for this amazing experience.

Installation view of Culture Dishes at AAAS, 2014
Installation view of Culture Dishes at AAAS, 2014

The Ars Bioarctica Residency Program is a joint project of the Finnish Bioart Society and Kilpisjärvi Biological Station in sub-Arctic Lapland. The residency has an emphasis on the Arctic environment and art-science collaboration. I’ll have access to the station’s lab and equipment and I’ll be working side-by-side with scientists conducting research on vegetation, local fauna, and soil chemistry. izzyscarffinland2Kilpisjärvi’s location near the Arctic Circle puts it on the front lines of climate change, a subject of much of my recent art.

Like most art residencies, this one is unfunded. I hope to raise enough money through Indiegogo to cover my travel and room and board and to buy some art supplies. To thank you for your support, I’ve come up with an array of amazing perks, including a scarf and print based on Reindeer Moss, a lichen native to the region.

There’s lots more information about the residency on my Indiegogo page. Please look, click, spread the word, and support sciart!

UPDATE: As of 5pm on May 14, this project is fully funded! Thank you so much for your support.

Science for the People: Understanding Neuroscience


Blue Pyramidal Neuron - original watercolor painting on clayboard by Michele Banks (All Rights Reserved - Used with Permission)
Blue Pyramidal Neuron – original watercolor painting on clayboard by Michele Banks (All Rights Reserved – Used with Permission)

This week, Science for the People is we’re looking at the ways we try to understand the inner workings of the brain. They talk to University College London researcher Cliodhna O’Connor about patterns in the way the public interprets neuroscience news. And they’ll ask Duncan Astle, Program Leader at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, about “neuromyths,” popular misconceptions about the way the brain functions.

*Josh provides research help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.

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