. . . field reports from a creative catalyst in the Pacific NW

my SEP residency at Fred Hutch

Ollie Press Lab, Fred Hutch

Ollie Press Lab at Fred Hutch

Artists and designers play an increasingly key role in communicating scientific phenomenon. In my role as artist and educator, I am working to create access for myself and other artists and designers to to frontier advances in molecular and biomedical science. In my capacity as Resident Research Fellow at Cornish College of the Arts, I am working with my colleagues to develop opportunities for students who are interested in these research based fields. I created a new blog site to share my art/science research, practice and community building efforts. —> Visit: LABRADS: RAD COLLABS in Science, Technology and the Arts

This past Spring, I was selected to participate in the 2015 Science Education Partnership (SEP). This year-long program activates learning partnerships that link teachers, scientists, and life science research institutions in our Pacific NW region. This hands on experience and the opportunity to build relationships with mentor scientists as well as other educators will provide me with a deeper understanding of the field, inspire my work and provide relevant pedagogical approaches to use in my teaching practice and share with my Cornish colleagues.

Each spring, mentor scientists located at seven SEP partner sites (including Fred Hutch, ISB, Seattle BioTech, Seattle Childrens Hosptial, UW Medcial Center) select 25 teachers working in the state of Washington to participate in the Science Education Partnership program.  I applied and was very fortunate to be selected as part of the 2015 cohort educators by Shani Frayo who works in the Ollie Press Lab at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Her lab is devoted to the investigation of novel treatments for hematologic malignancies including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, which were diseases both my father and my sister had. As the first Arts Educator to participate in the program, my experience will give me a foundation in molecular biology techniques and concepts and offer an opportunity to broaden my understanding of current methods, discoveries and challenges in the field of cancer research. The next 3 weeks is going to be a wild ride for me….teaching labs that will cover bloodborne pathogen training, DNA restriction enzyme digests, DNA gel electrophoresis, molecular modeling activities, bacterial transformation labs, etc… working in the Press lab with mentor scientist, curriculum development workshops with my cohort, and a final poster session presentation. The remainder of my time will be spent in the Teaching Laboratory at the Hutchinson Center, where our cohort works as a group with master SEP Lead Teachers  There we focus on effective ways to use scientific concepts and techniques in the classroom and develop new curricula for the coming school year.

Renee Agatsuma and SEP teacher at DNA Bootcamp

SEP teachers (Renee Agatsuma) at Fred Hutch SEP DNA Bootcamp, 2015

I am also trying to get more of a birds eye view…exploring the various imaging technologies used by researchers, visiting as many of the labs as I can and learning about what the other 24 teachers are doing with their mentor scientists. This opportunity will help me activate engaging research-based methods and creative practices for artists and designers to translate advances and innovations in the life sciences. In addition, I am hoping to advocate for the development of an SEAP (Science Education & Arts Partnerships) program that could work in much of the same way that the SEP (Science Education Partnership) program does. A Science Education + Art program (SEAP) could pair scientists with practicing artists and designers to convey the excitement, challenge and results of their scientific inquiry with their mentees who can extend that it to the public in creative and meaningful ways.

Nancy Hutchison

Nancy Hutchison

“Learning science is like learning a foreign language. By participating in the Science Education Partnership, teachers explore a foreign country; they get immersed. After a couple of weeks, they have begun to think like the ‘locals’ and see how the research culture really works. As a result, their students gain a better understanding of what science really is and how it influences their daily lives.”

– Nancy Hutchison, Co-founder/Director of SEP

I’m grateful to my colleague, Renee Agatsuma, for encouraging me to apply to the SEP program and to Cornish College of the Arts for the Faculty Development Funding award supporting my participation in the program.


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