BioArt combines art and science can help promote STEM education

Scientists often invite the public to come see what they see, using everything from woodblock prints to electron microscopes to explore the intricacies of the scientific enterprise and the beauty of life. Share these visions Through illustrations, photography and video, people have made a range of discoveries, from new bird species to the inner workings of human cells.

As one neuroscientist and biological scientist, I know that scientists are sometimes likened to white coats in a lab obsessed with charts and graphs. What the stereotype misses is their fascination with science as a mode of discovery. That’s why scientists frequently use stunning visualizations as a way to explain the unexplainable.

The BioArt Science Image and Video Contest, managed by Federation of American Societies in Experimental Biology, shares rarely seen images outside the lab with the public to introduce and educate parishioners about the wonder often associated with biological research. BioArt and similar competitions reflect the long history of using images to unravel science.

Developing eye of a zebrafish embryo, 72 h after fertilization.

Lynne Nacke

The Renaissance, a period in European history between the 14th and 17th centuries, breathed new life into both science and the arts. It brings together the fledgling discipline of natural history – a field of investigation that observes animals, plants, and fungi in their normal environments – with artistic illustrations. This allows for a broader study and classification of the natural world.

Artists and artistic naturalists can also enhance approaches to the study of nature by illustrating the discoveries of early botanists and anatomists. For example, Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens has provided remarkable insight into human anatomy in famous anatomical drawings.

This art-scientific formulation was further democratized in the 17th and 18th centuries as printing became more sophisticated and allowed early ornithologists and anatomists to publish and disseminate manuscripts. their elegant drawing. Popular items originally included John James Audubon”American Bird“And” by Charles DarwinOrigin of species”- groundbreaking at the time in terms of the clarity of their illustrations.


The painting shows a cross-section of a small respiratory droplet, like those believed to transmit the coronavirus.

Christine Zardecki

Publishers soon provided well-received field guides and encyclopedias detailing observations of what was seen with the original microscope. For example, a Scottish encyclopedia published in 1859, “Chambers’s Encyclopaedia: A Dictionary of Universal Knowledge for People, ” has sought to broadly interpret the natural world through woodcut illustrations of mammals, microorganisms, birds, and reptiles.

These publications have responded to public demand for a variety of news and views on the natural world. People form amateur naturalist societies, hunt for fossils, and enjoy trips to local zoos or zoos. In the 19th century, natural history museums were built around the world to share scientific knowledge through illustrations, models, and real-life examples. Exhibits range from taxed animals to human organs preserved in liquid.

What started with hand drawings has transformed over the past 150 years with the help of new technologies. The advent of sophisticated imaging techniques such as X-rays in 1895, electron microscopy in 1931, 3D modeling in the 1960s, and magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI in 1973, helped scientists It’s easier for students to share what they see in the lab. In fact, Wilhelm Roentgen, a physics professor who first discovered X-rays, created the first X-ray image of a human using his wife’s hand.


Micro-CT density visualization of an embryonic southern skull overlapping that of an adult human skull.

Todd Green

Today, scientific publications include nature and The scientist shared their favorites with readers. Visualization, whether through images or video, is one more method for scientists to document, test, and validate their research.

These science visualizations have made their way into classrooms, as K-12 schools add science photos and videos to their curriculum.

For example, the art museum has developed arts-based science curriculum to give students a glimpse of what science looks like. This can help promote science degree, enhancing their understanding of basic scientific principles and their critical thinking skills.


Fluorescent coating of HeLa cells infected with fatal foodborne pathogens Listeria monocytogenes. You can see the bacteria spreading from cell to cell.

Arandeep Dhanda

Scientific literature is especially important now. During a pandemic where misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines is rampant, a better understanding of natural phenomena can help students learn to make informed decisions about risk and transmission. diseases. Teaching science literacy provides students with the skills to evaluate statements made by both scientists and public figures, whether it is about COVID-19, the common cold, or the common cold. Climate Change.

However, scientific knowledge seems to be stagnating. The 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress measures the science knowledge and ability to learn science of U.S. public school students in grades 4, 8, and 12 on a scale of 0 to 300. stagnation for all classes from 2009 to 2019, ranging between 150 and 154 .


3D evaluation of the cardiac lymphatic network of the mouse.

Coraline Heron

A survey of K-12 teachers found that 77 percent of elementary school teachers spend less than four hours a week on science. And the 2018 National Survey of Science and Math Education found K-3 students receive an average of 18 minutes of science instruction per day, compared with 57 minutes for math.

Making science more intuitive can make learning science at an early age easier. It can also help students understand scientific models and develop skills such as teamwork and how to communicate complex concepts.

The BioArt Science Image and Video Contest was founded 10 years ago to give scientists the opportunity to share their latest research and to allow a wider audience to see biological science from a researcher’s perspective.

What’s unique about the BioArt competition is the variety of entries from the past decade. After all, biological sciences cover a wide range of fields within the life sciences. The winners of the BioArt Contest 2021 include zebrafish’s developed eyes into the shell of a species Helochelydrid fossil turtle 96 million years old.

I have been a judge for the BioArt competition for the past five years. My appreciation for the science behind the images often exceeds my enjoyment of their beauty and technique. For example, photography uses polarized light, which filters the light waves so that they oscillate in one direction instead of many, allowing scientists to reveal what the insides of the specimens look like.

Whether today or in the past, science sheds light on the foundations of our world, both in miniature and on a large scale. It is my hope that the visual illumination of scientific processes and concepts can enhance scientific understanding and enable both students and the public to access a deeper understanding of the natural world. that they need to be informed to the citizens. That the pictures and videos are often beautiful is an added benefit.

Chris Curran is a neuroscientist at Northern Kentucky University. BioArt combines art and science can help promote STEM education


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