"Memory," mushroom body neurons from the paper wasp, by neuroscience graduate student Gabriella Wolff. (Photo: Gabriella Wolff)
"Memory," mushroom body neurons from the paper wasp, by neuroscience graduate student Gabriella Wolff. (Photo: Gabriella Wolff)

Breathing Life Into Art

Students in the undergraduate Neuroscience & Cognitive Science program will host the first "Symbiosis: An Exhibit of Biological Art," an event promoting the fusion of science and art.
April 16, 2015
What: 
"Symbiosis: An Exhibit of Biological Art"
When: 
Monday, April 20, 5-7 p.m.
Where: 
UA Gould-Simpson building, 1040 E. Fourth St.
"Branching Patterns," inspired by neurons of the hippocampus, a region of the brain that plays an important role in learning, memory and spatial navigation, by Julie Charlton. (Photo: Julie Charlton)
"Branching Patterns," inspired by neurons of the hippocampus, a region of the brain that plays an important role in learning, memory and spatial navigation, by Julie Charlton. (Photo: Julie Charlton)
"Pathways: The Beauty of Thought" is a Diffusion Tensor Image acquired in the Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience lab in the UA Department of Psychiatry. The image is produced through a measurement of the diffusion of water within the white-matter tracts of the brain. (Photo: Brad Shane)
"Pathways: The Beauty of Thought" is a Diffusion Tensor Image acquired in the Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience lab in the UA Department of Psychiatry. The image is produced through a measurement of the diffusion of water within the white-matter tracts of the brain. (Photo: Brad Shane)

For centuries, scientists and artists have found inspiration in each other's work. The similarities between the two fields are undeniable — both require free exploration of ideas, careful expression of thoughts and boundless creativity on the part of the practitioner.

On Monday, student ambassadors of the undergraduate Neuroscience & Cognitive Science program and the University of Arizona chapter of the national neuroscience honorary society Nu Rho Psi will host the first "Symbiosis: An Exhibit of Biological Art," an event that aims to showcase the aesthetic appeal of life and promote a fusion of science and art. In biology, symbiosis is a term used to refer to a close, mutually beneficial relationship between two organisms.

"Scientists often admire the beauty of microscope images and even data, but I think there is an interested public that could see the aesthetic beauty in these images and hopefully want to know a bit of the science behind them," said Amy Nippert, an undergraduate NSCS senior who conceived of the event and helped to organize it. "For artists, it's a chance to explore something they may not know a lot about — but that affects almost every aspect of our lives."

The event will take place in the lobby of the Gould-Simpson building and feature work from more than 50 artists, including UA faculty, staff and students and members of the Tucson community. Select pieces will be available for sale to the public.

"I worry that people have this idea that science is the polar opposite of the arts, but in my mind they are very similar," said Julie Charlton, an undergraduate NSCS junior and artist displaying work at the event. "Both art and science have the potential to be expressions of appreciation for the interconnected beauty of nature."

Organizers hope that the public will come out to appreciate the life sciences from a perspective outside the classroom.

"Science and art may seem dichotomous, but they have a long history together," Nippert said. "They complement each other, as each requires a blend of creativity and precision."