CellulART celebrates science and art

October 4, 2017



          Scientists from all over the country gathered at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Center for the Visual Arts for CellulART, to showcase their scientific and artistic abilities Sept. 29.

          The day was organized by Ashtyn Zinn, a doctoral student, from Rafael Garcia-Mata’s laboratory in the                          Department of Biological Sciences, who has been doing research with cytoskeletons for four and a half years.

          This event was all made possible when Zinn received the Early Career Meeting Grant from the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB).

          Additional support was given by University of Toledo President Sharon Gaber, Dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Medicines Karen Bjorkman, Amanda Bryant-Friedrich and various biotech companies.

          Breakthroughs in this work could mean big things for scientific advancements and future cancer research, said Keith Burridge, professor at UNC Chapel Hill in his keynote speech at CellulART.

          Burridge was born in England and began his graduate work there in 1971 before moving to the United States and beginning research with biologist Dr. Jim Watson.

          Burridge said he has led breakthrough research in the field and hopes his findings could fuel future cancer research, specifically in the ways cancer cells interact with their neighbors, invade other parts of the body and, ultimately, kill patients.

          The artistic quality of cytoskeletal research was showcased at the event along with the Toledo community. The Center for Visual Art gave researchers a chance to see Toledo’s artistic community.

          Local businesses were also included, with Grumpy’s, a downtown Toledo restaurant and the Bakery Unlimited providing food.

          Vanderbilt University professor, Dylan Burnette, also spoke at the event about his cell research and scientific artwork.

          Since 2004, he has been taking microscopic photos of many types of cells and blowing them up onto canvases. Recently, he has been venturing into fashion with scarves and will very soon have t-shirts and other apparel, Burnette said.

          He said what first drew him to creating art out of these photos was how “visually striking and engaging they were, and also how useful they were in teaching friends and family about his work.”

          He said he is currently working on finding new ways to make science more appealing and understanding for the general public.

         Melinda Stees, a featured artist at the event, began knitting and creating scientific art four years ago.

         Stees enlarges photos and knits them onto canvas. A knit piece she created of a photo of a rabbit chromosome in metaphase was featured at CellulART, she said.  

         UT students were given the spotlight at CellulART, some having 15-minute presentations and many others creating poster board presentations on their research.

         Zinn noted how this was a great aspect of the event because graduate and undergraduate students aren’t usually able to get a lot of attention or present their research.

         When organizing the event, Zinn said she wanted to give UT students exposure for new opportunities.

         Outside researchers don’t usually give much attention to what students are doing here at UT. So this day was crucial in allowing students to network with scientists from universities across the Midwest, create potential collaborations with other laboratories and for UT to recruit top-notch graduate students, Zinn said.

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