Central Elements Window Art in Central Square

Central Elements Window Art in Central Square — Special Events on Sunday, April 27th from 2:00 pm until 4:00 pm.

Image by: Mariana Muriago
Central Elements is a collaborative project of art depictions of chemical elements & molecules in storefront windows through the partnership of a scientist and artist. This event is a collaboration of the Cambridge Science Festival, Central Square Business Association, and the Central Square Cultural District to use Central Square as a cultural lab to further the CSF mission to make STEAM accessible, engaging, and fun for all!  Each art piece represents different chemical elements and molecules.

Thank you to the artists, scientists, store owners, and local collaborators that made this project possible!

1) Plastics | Workbar
2) Chlorophyll a & Taxol | 297 Massachusetts Ave.
3) Ecteinascidin 743  | Jean Brooks Landscape
4) Carbon | University Stationery 
5) Carbon (C) | 297 Massachusetts Ave.
6) Hydrogen, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen | MIT Library Storage Annex 
7) Hydrogen and Oxygen | 297 Massachusetts Ave.
8) Gold | Asgard
9) Vitamin B12 | 297 Massachusetts Ave.
10) Women in Science Quilt | Cort Furniture
11) DNA Hairpins | 297 Massachusetts Ave.

12) Pre-Crystal | CCTV
13) Walkway Mural
14) Release 2
15) Botulinum toxin | 297 Massachusetts Ave.


1) Plastics | Workbar
45 Prospect Street, Cambridge, MA

Plastics are everywhere in our homes and lives.  Every day we handle food and product packaging, disposable dishes, clothes, and many other products that are made of plastic.  Plastics are mostly derived from petroleum, a dwindling resource, and are not biodegradable, meaning they pile up in landfills.  Therefore, it’s very important that we recycle!  You may have noticed the little recycling triangle on the bottom of your plastics.

Have you ever wanted to know what it means?  This exhibit breaks down the major classes of recyclable polymers, what they’re made from, and what they’re recycled into.

We’ll also hit some major points of polymer science and engineering on the way, so you can find out just how we make polymers into the many different plastics you’re familiar with, and give tips on how to use plastics more efficiently and sustainably.  The exhibit also features garlands of plastic products to show the amazing breadth of shapes, colors, and properties polymer scientists can achieve.

Jennifer Fuchel grew up in New York City and has lived in Cambridge for many years. She currently is an Associate Professor at The New England School of Art & Design at Suffolk University. Jennifer enjoys group brainstorming and creative interactions, so she was excited to collaborate with Liz for Central Elements. And Jen confesses that, for the first time, she now understands what those little numbers on plastic bottles mean. In addition to solving communication problems, Jennifer loves to sculpt, paint both abstract and realistic landscapes, draw, and make things. And her cat is named after the central character in Stephen Schwartz’s musical Pippin.

Elizabeth S. Sterner grew up in Minnesota, then went to Creighton University and earned her B.S. Chemistry, followed by a PhD in Polymer Science and Engineering from UMass Amherst.  Right now she’s a postdoctoral associate at MIT.  Science fascinated her from a very early age, and she’s been heavily involved in community outreach for over ten years to get the word out on how cool and fun science can be.  Her current research works on new ways of modifying cellulose for a variety of applications. She has a husband who’s a visiting professor in Worcester, MA, and a cat named after Chemistry Nobel laureate Bob Woodward.  Her hobbies include reading, origami, and cooking and homebrewing beer and cider (both excellent hobbies for chemists, or those interested in chemistry).  If you have any questions about polymers, chemistry, science, college, or grad school, just ask!


2) Chlorophyll a & Taxol | 297 Massachusetts Ave.

Chlorophyll a: Project Description
This painting captures the structure and the function of Chlorophyll a, a molecule and pigment essential for photosynthesis and complex life on earth. Present in all plants that employ photosynthesis, Chlorophyll a captures photons—packets of light energy—and initiates the process through which sunlight is harvested to build carbohydrates such as sugars from carbon dioxide and water. Without Chlorophyll a, plants would not be able to use the sun’s energy, and so the earth would not have plants or anything else higher on the food pyramid (such as humans!).

Chlorophyll a is also the primary molecule responsible for the green color so common in life. Chlorophyll absorbs violet-blue and orange-red light and so leaves for the viewer only green, a color heavily emphasized in this painting.

The active center of the Chlorophyll a molecule responsible for its function is the beautifully symmetric ring system surrounding the central magnesium cation (atom with positive charge). Similar ring systems are present in heme, the molecule that captures and stores oxygen in our bodies, and in vitamin B12, a molecule essential for DNA synthesis in all human body cells; instead of magnesium, the metal cations in those molecules are iron (Fe) and cobalt (Co) respectively.

Taxol: Project Description
With annual sales of over $1 billion, the anticancer drug Taxol is a testament to the advancement of modern medicine through innovation in chemistry and biology. Acquiring the compound from its natural source, the Pacific Yew tree Taxus brevifolia, is expensive and environmentally destructive, but the compound can now be synthesized in the lab using economical and environmentally friendly techniques.

Above the deviously dense, complex, and irregular molecule of Taxol are keywords and names associated with the potent anticancer drug. The compound was isolated from the Pacific Yew (Taxus Brevifolia) by scientist pair Wall and Wani. With scientific name Paclitaxel, Taxol is biologically classified as a terpenoid compound because of the biochemical pathway through which select plants can synthesize it. Taxol derives its cytotoxic (cell-killing) characteristics from preventing cell proliferation by fixing and rigidifying the microtubule skeleton of cell. First synthesized by synthetic organic chemists, the compound is now produced through biosynthesis with the fungus Penicillium raistrickii.

Oliver Šin is a Hungarian contemporary painter. In his style are mixing Neo-expressionism, Street Art, Dadaism, Conceptual and Political Art together with science, as spices in a tasty French soup. He paints his scientific formulas on different surfaces like canvases, guitars, girlfriend’s shoes etc.. When he doesn’t paint, he plays the guitar and/or travels with a camera in his hands.

Oliver Šin Official Website: http://oliversin.eu

James Deng is an undergraduate student majoring in Chemistry at MIT. He is particularly interested in organic and bioorganic chemistry, and enjoys both drawing complex molecular structures in his notebook and on his dorm room ceiling tiles and carrying out reactions of these molecules in the lab. He is currently researching in the Danheiser Group at MIT and working on the optimization of a synthetic route to a polyacetylene molecule with cytotoxic effects on tumor cells and no effect on normal cells.

Apart from appreciating symmetry and beauty in both simple and complex molecules, James enjoys science for its humanness and the enormous positive effect science continues to exert on human welfare.

Outside of the academic sphere, James also enjoys cooking, square dancing, skiing, playing the 2048 game, and exploring the MIT campus.


3)  Ecteinascidin 743  | Jean Brooks Landscape
875 Main St, Cambridge

The Wonderful Interconnectedness of Life Over millions of years, evolution had created the complex interdependent environment which is today’s ecosystem. Inspired by the delicate balance of organisms which exists in ecosystems across the globe and the important biologically active compounds they produce, our work features the interconnected relationship of the red mangrove, Ectainascidia turbinata, and tiger flatworm and an anticancer agent arising from this ecosystem, ecteinascidin-743.

Nicknamed the “walking tree,” the red mangrove, native to the coastal areas of tropical and subtropical regions is notable for its prop-like roots which suspend the tree above the surface of the water. It is on these same prop-like waxy roots that we find the mangrove tunicate (Ecteinascidia turbinata). These species have a symbiotic relationship with the mangrove providing a substrate to grow from and the tunicate protecting the roots from wood boring isopods. As filter feeders, using the mangrove roots to anchor themselves, the mangroves draw water into their interior through a hole at the top of their body, passing it through a filter, called the brachial basket, and expelling the water back out though a second hole on the side of their body. Although it is unclear whether the tunicate themselves or a bacteria they consume produces the compound, these tunicates are known for being the source of a powerful bioactive molecule with potent anti-cancer activity, ecteinascidin-743, the molecule featured in this work.

The beautiful color of the mangrove tunicate derives from high concentrations of vanadium which the species accumulates in specific cells. This bioaccumulation is enabled by special vanadium binding proteins (vanabins) and can lead to concentrations of vanadium in the cells that are one million times higher than the surrounding sea water, which would be toxic to most species! This however, does not deter the tiger flatworm (Pseudoceros crozieri). Unlike most species which gain sustenance from a variety of sources, tiger flatworms feed exclusively on mangrove tunicates. While the exact mechanism of by which the flatworms avoid the toxicity of these high levels of vanadium is unknown, through the consumption of mangrove tunicates, the flatworms take up vanadium and ecteinascidin-743 from the mangrove tunicates, both of which help prevent predators from preying on them as well.

As a whole these organisms form a beautiful example of not only how intimately connected evolution has made the ecosystems of the world that surround us, but also how these systems can have a direct impact on human life. Ecteinascidin-743 is only one of many compounds scientists have derived from natural sources. Just imagine what important compounds are out there waiting to be discovered!

Francesca Bini Bichisecchi
Nature — in its shapes, contours, colors, sounds, symmetry, asymmetry, calmness, chaos, and mysteries has always informed my art making and love of science. In turn, knowing as much as possible about the physical properties of the art materials I love, such as clay, has led me to create and build with confidence.

In making the sculpture for this display, I played freely with the size, shape, and color of each marine participant of this scientific story, emphasizing their symbolic importance rather than their actual dimensions. The main character in this sculpture is the zooid, Ecteinascidia turbinata, also known as the mangrove tunicate. In reality, each individual  E.t. organism in the colony is about 2.5 cm or 1” tall. The “bulked up” roots of the Mangrove is a result of my stubbornness to use clay, my preferred medium rather than a more delicate material, but this also symbolically points to the enormous importance of the mangrove in securing the coastline soil, and providing a habitat to marine organisms.

Thomas “Andy” McTeague
As a young child, I didn’t always express my innate curiosity in ways that my parents thought were appropriate. It’s this compulsion for knowledge and understanding that drove me to disassemble my mother’s lawn mower as a child in an attempt to build a motorized bicycle. My interest was piqued as I began to learn about science in grade school, provoking me to think about how I could use the tools of science, just as I had used physical tools to build the bicycle as a child, to benefit the world around me. This introduced me to the field of medicinal chemistry. Currently I’m a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology pursuing a PhD in organic chemistry. My research efforts at MIT are focused on the development of new synthetic techniques and methodologies to facilitate drug synthesis and discovery. As part of my field, I’ve always been intrigued by the complexity of the natural products, such as ecteinascidin 743 (featured in this artwork), that different organisms can synthesize, their biological function, and how we, as chemists, can apply the principles they teach us.


4)  Carbon | University Stationery 
311 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge

This display shows a typical graphite pencil writing on a surface.  Graphite is a material that is composed solely of carbon atoms that are bonded together in a repeating hexagonal pattern. The surface here represents one thin layer of graphite, known as graphene. Graphene is of particular interest for its metal-like conductivity and application in new lightweight and flexible electronics. Here, a laser points down on the graphene sheet and zaps up pieces of the hexagon-bonded carbon surface which cyclize into soccer ball-like spheres known as buckyballs or C60. Buckyballs are actually truncated icosahedrons with 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons making up the surface, and is identical to a soccer ball. At every vertex of the structure is a carbon atom, 60 in total, explaining the more scientific name, C60. Buckyballs can act as one of the active layers in carbon-based solar cells, helping to convert the captured sunlight into useable electricity. In this creative depiction, the buckyballs are being shuttled into a solar panel, which then powers the laser that generates more buckyballs by repeatedly zapping the graphene surface. The element carbon can exist in many different forms depending on how the atoms are linked together. Graphite, graphene, and buckyballs, as well as diamond, are all made up exclusively of carbon atoms. But when the carbon atoms are linked together in these different 3-D patterns (such as hexagon-containing sheets versus soccer-ball spheres), we can end up with very different materials.

Influenced by nature and fractal theory, Catherine Gruetzke-Blais works in a variety of media including acrylic paint, collage, watercolor paint, and mosaic. She has shown her art in the Boston, MA area since 1990 and her pieces are held in various private collections. She completed MAT and BFA Degrees from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. A fine artist and art teacher, Catherine has also worked as a scenic artist painting large-scale scenery. In 2012, she was selected to paint and collage her design onto one of the large fiberglass rabbits for the Dedham Public Art Project. This was the beginning of a new creative surge! Catherine’s art is ‘nature and energy based’ and ranges from semi to completely abstracted. Color and rhythm are always very important and present in her work, as are intuitive depicting of subject matter and application of art materials.

Sarah Luppino is a graduate student in chemistry at MIT currently researching the design and synthesis of new carbon-based materials for use in solar cells and in organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs).


5) Carbon (C) | 297 Massachusetts Ave.

Carbon is everywhere – it is the 4th most abundant element on the earth’s crust and the 15th most abundant element in the universe by mass. It is the basis of organic chemistry as well as fundamental to the existence of biological matter. Carbon-carbon bonds are extremely stable and abundant; as a result, carbon can bind with almost anything. However, one of the most infamous carbon bonds has been that with oxygen – CO and CO2. For this reason, the element carbon has become synonymous with pollution, waste, and toxicity.

Through rapid industrialization, we have devised processes and technologies that consume and excrete carbon in unprecedented amounts. And though carbon has existed in the ground, water, and air for eons, the scales at which such operations excrete it are straining the natural cycles of many environmental systems (atmospheric, ecological, etc.).

We wished to bring the multi-faceted nature of carbon to life in our installation. Each panel depicts a different facet of carbon: in the middle, we created a honeycomb pattern as a very neutral representation of carbon atoms bonded to one another – this is how some carbon atoms look like under a microscope!  On either side, we created two extremely different realities in which carbon exists.  As part of a chemically balanced environment, carbon is just another element in the dirt, water, or air that makes our planet what it is. On the other end, we see we an industrial landscape in which carbon is extremely concentrated in certain spheres – such the air above, our precious atmosphere.

These dueling realities present urgent environmental challenges that we must all try to solve if we expect a sustainable future.

Artist: Dara Bayer, Boston Arts Academy
Dara Bayer is a local artist, educator, and community organizer. She graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Africana Studies and Visual Art in 2008 and lived in Brazil on a Fulbright grant in 2009 where she did arts education and anti-racist work with Black youth. In 2011 she earned her MAT from Tufts University. Since high school she has been involved in local grassroots organizing for environmental justice, Palestine solidarity, freeing political prisoners, and the empowerment of young women. At Boston Arts Academy, the only visual and performing public high school in Boston, she teaches humanities and strives to engage young artists in their capacity to create positive transformation in their community, society, and world.

Scientist: Maria Paula Angarita, MIT
I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in physics at Florida International University in 2012. My studies in math and economics sparked interests that led me to pursue a master’s degree in the Technology and Policy Program at MIT, where I am also an NSF Fellow in the Allanore research group. I’m interested in studying the intersections between science, technology, and society, particularly in areas such as science education reform and systems-level engineering. Most importantly, I’m really excited about making science accessible and fun!


6) Hydrogen, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen | MIT Library Storage Annex
750 Massachusetts Ave.

Most biological molecules on earth are made up of the covalent combinations of the four chemical elements: Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Nitrogen. Amino acids are one subset of these biomolecules. They can link together and form long chains that need to fold correctly to make functional proteins, or can be further processed to yield many of the brain chemicals that motivate, sedate, focus or frustrate us. Through this window display we would like to share with you the mini-projects Wellesley College CHEM106 ‘Art of Science: Think like a Scientist, Act like an Artist’ Seminar Course students together with contributions from BIOC223 ‘Fundamentals of Biochemistry’ students created in the form of visual arts, music, creative writing, and movement that reflect their individual understanding and insight of how the individual four elements make up proteins, specifically the intriguing brain protein prion and how this one protein can lead to the different prion diseases when it folds incorrectly. CHEM106 students will also be holding an interactive presentation during the Central Elements open house that will use multiple forms of art to explain how four of the most talked about neurotransmitters, dopamine, serotonin, adrenalin (epinephrine), and noradrenalin (norepinephrine), are made and how they function in our bodies. This project is an extension of a long term educational initiative started by Dr. Didem Vardar-Ulu at Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA in collaboration with Dr. Shuchismitta Dutta at the Protein Data Bank, Rutgers NJ, in 2012 aiming at incorporating public sharing of scientific knowledge into existing course curriculum as a solution to bridge the perceived gap between classroom and real world biochemistry. It is aimed to offer students enrolled in life sciences courses opportunities for developing their skills and competencies in independent learning and effective communication of the scientific concepts they are studying as a part of their formal curriculum through student selected real life applications of these concepts which they share with the public.

The artist cohort for this project is all the fifteen students enrolled in the CHEM106 ‘Art of Science: Think like a Scientist, Act like an Artist’ Seminar Course as well Das two students from the BIOC223 ‘Fundamentals of Biochemistry’ course taught by Prof. Didem Vardar-Ulu during the Spring of 2014 at Wellesley College. The names, class years, and declared majors (if available) for the artists are listed below. They will all be present at the Central Elements Open House on April 27th as well as their diverse set of interests alongside their work with the visitors.

Artist Cohort: Aisha Lovise Maud Bornoe (’17, undeclared), Kelsey Brooke Burhans (’17, undeclared), Jaclyn Nicole Burton (’17, undeclared),, Clara Cotty (’17, undeclared), Yujing Fan (’17, undeclared), Charlotte F. Fitzek (’15, East Asian Studies), Jung Ryun Hong (’14, English), Diana Thanh Nguyet Huynh (’15, Art History & Political Science), Alexandra Saraleah Kaye (’17, undeclared), Joanna Songeun Kim (’17, undeclared), Eugene Lee (’15, Economics/ East Asian Studies), Patricia Louise Liu (’14, East Asian Studies), Isabel Hunter Campos Noonan (’17, undeclared), Christina Spinari Pollalis (’16, Political Science), Colleen Gayle Royal (Davis Scholar, Theater Studies), Katherine Anne Schwartz (’15, Political Science), Audrey Amade and would be happy to share their personal stories

Dr. Didem Vardar-Ulu is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Wellesley College, Massachusetts. She received her BS in physics from Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey and her Ph.D. in Biophysics from Boston University. After her postdoctoral work in structural biology and biochemistry at Harvard Medical School, she joined Wellesley College to pursue her passion in science education within a liberal arts setting. Both her teaching and research reflects her interdisciplinary background as a biophysical chemist and her desire to pursue collaborative research and education efforts at the interface between life and physical sciences. As a member of the Biology Scholars Program, she is committed in facilitating the undergraduate education reform through student-centered and assessment-based approaches and engaging in scholarship of teaching and learning. She currently resides in Newton, MA with her husband Gokhan, and two sons, Umut (10), and Utku (3).


7) Hydrogen and Oxygen | 297 Massachusetts Ave.

Fuel cells are devices that convert energy stored in molecules into electricity. Fuel cells utilize renewable fuels such as hydrogen. The energy stored in a hydrogen molecule is released and converted into electricity. The hydrogen ions that remain are converted to the non-hazardous by-product, water.

The artwork depicts the breaking of the hydrogen molecules and the formation of water. The hexagonal shape of the piece represents the most stable packing of the metal atoms that form the surfaces where the reactions occur. One panel shows the hydrogen molecules breaking apart into individual hydrogen ions. During this process electrons are released and electricity flows out of the fuel cell to power an object. The hydrogen ions travel to another metal surface where they combine with oxygen atoms to form water.

The artwork draws inspiration from the Law of Conservation of Mass. Matter cannot be created or destroy, hence the number of hydrogen atoms, oxygen atoms, and electrons must remain constant regardless of their current state.

Szu-Chieh Yun was born in Pingtung, Taiwan in 1988. She immigrated to the United States in 1997. Yun works predominantly in the medium of painting, her works also includes mixed media, photography, and sculpture. Yun’s works frequently reflect her experiences and culture as a Taiwanese American immigrant.  She completed her BFA in painting from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2011. In 2010 she studied abroad in China at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing. She is currently employed as a painting mentor at Artist for Humanity, a non-profit organization that provides underserved teens the means to develop professional and artistic skills.  She lives and works in Boston.

The Northeastern Section Younger Chemists Committee (NSYCC) is an organization devoted to the professional advancement of younger chemists. NSYCC aims to provide young chemists with career development and networking opportunities among peers and well-established chemists to help them transition into professional careers. Its membership is drawn from colleges and universities, and industry within and proximal to the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society (NESACS).


8) Gold | Asgard
350 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge

Discover GOLD! Our installation is an artistic interpretation of the human relationship to gold. We focus here on how therapeutic gold can exist in the human body, mirroring ancient views of gold as a life-sustaining substance. Gold has been and continues to be well known and valued for its beauty and rarity, as in jewelry and coinage. As early as the 5th people across Asia and the Middle East drank solutions made of tiny spheres of gold to treat physical and mental ailments. Gold has also long been known as an effective anti-bacterial. We now know that due to its subatomic structure, elemental gold is un-reactive – or inert – to air and water, and can thus exist in or pass through the body unchanged and with minimal toxic side effects. This has spawned a wide array of modern medical applications for gold metal: in dentistry, as an electrical component of pacemakers, and as a diagnostic tool. Modified gold clusters are even found in clinical trials to be cancer-killing missiles, commonly known as targeted gold nanoparticles.

This installation interprets the presence of medicinal gold in the human body as an illuminated mixed media representation in paper and wood. We encourage you to come see the piece in the daylight and in the dark to fully appreciate gold’s lustrous utility!

Helen Bailey is a multimedia artist and craftsperson whose work includes historical hand bookbinding, origami and paper crafts, jewelry, painting, and generative digital art. You can find more of her work at www.helenkbailey.com. By day, Helen is a fellow in digital curation at MIT. She holds an M.S. in Information Studies from U.T. Austin and is now helping to re-envision how academic libraries will store information to be accessible for future generations!

Alisha Weight is a biochemist in Cambridge. She holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry from MIT and now works with drugs to make them more effective and accessible to you!

1) Dykman, et al. Gold Nanoparticles in Biology and Medicine: Recent Advances and Prospects. Acta Naturae. 2011 Apr-Jun; 3(2):34-55.
2) Gold in Medicine: A review of its use in the West before 1900. Gold Bull. 1982; 15(4): 130-140.
3) Han, et al. 2007. Bio-Applications of Nanoparticles. Ch.
4: Multi-functional gold nanoparticles for Drug Delivery. ed. Chan: Landes Bioscience.


9) Vitamin B12 | 297 Massachusetts Ave.

Our molecule is Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin. Vitamin B12 contains numerous elements: a prominent central Cobalt amongst 88 Hydrogens, 63 Carbons, 14 Nitrogens, 14 Oxygens and 1 Phosphorus. The R group can vary and thus, Vitamin B12 can come in other forms such as adenosylcobalamin and methylcobalamin.

Vitamins are required for essential reactions in human health; however, they can only be obtained through a balanced diet. Vitamins are often necessary for the activity of enzymes in certain metabolic reactions. For example, Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is an essential molecule that is stored in the liver and participates in many key reactions throughout the body. This vitamin is special in terms of the complexity of its structure, as well as the fairly unusual cobalt atom in its central set of rings.

Cobalamin is essential for a wide range of activities in the body. In all cells, cobalamin is required to convert methylmalonyl-CoA to succinyl-CoA. Succinyl-CoA is used in the Krebs cycle to produce stored energy in the form of ATP. In the brain, cobalamin is required to form neurotransmitters and the myelin sheath of neurons. In the heart, cobalamin is used to prevent the build-up of homocysteine, an amino acid related to an increased risk of heart disease. B12 also participates in reactions with other B-vitamins to form healthy blood cells. Thus, this vitamin is important in many areas of the body and can be obtained through the consumption of meat, shellfish, or dairy or through supplementation pills.

For the Central Elements project, Lisa French constructed a model of Vitamin B12, in the hopes that it would be both functional as well as aesthetic.  At first, the structure was incomprehensibly complex, given its hundreds of component atoms, connecting bonds and intriguing asymmetrical patterns. She chose to represent the elements with materials that might suggest their properties (for example, some elements are depicted as lights) and the connecting bonds with copper piping.

The central cobalt atom is represented as a pure form of the metal.  We hope that the model helps convey some of the science and magnificence behind what some say is “nature’s most beautiful” vitamin.

Lisa French is a professional illustrator, studio artist and educator.  The majority of her creative work involves painting, usually produced with oils or gouache.  The subject matter is usually narrative or metaphorical – the figure, wildlife, plant life and landscape.  Her studio practice involves weekly figure drawing and painting, and occasionally she works with printmaking or sculpture or experiments with conceptual toy theater.  A large part of her professional work is bio-medical illustration, primarily for advertising, collateral or publishing purposes.  But she normally renders anatomical structures rather than molecular structures that are invisible to the naked eye.  Lisa’s work has been included in numerous juried professional and gallery exhibitions and prestigious professional publications, and received several top awards.  She is also a member of the faculty at The New England School of Art & Design at Suffolk University, serving as the first Program Director for the new Illustration Program.

Biochemistry major and college honors student Anastasia Murthy led the efforts of Suffolk University’s undergraduate affiliate chapter of the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) on the science behind this project. The ASBMB club works to promote science within Suffolk and beyond by inviting seminar speakers to Suffolk, presenting research at national and regional symposia, organizing networking events for professional development and participating in outreach and educational programs with the Boston community. Other ASBMB members involved in this project include Minh Bui, Artemisa Bulku, and Kevin Ramos along with advisors Dr. Melanie Berkmen and Dr. Celeste Peterson. The club would also like to extend a special thanks to Dr. Michi Taga of the University of California Berkeley for her expert advice on all things Vitamin B12.

10) Women in Science Quilt | Cort Furniture
564 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge

The contributions of many important female scientists of the past two centuries have often been underplayed or overshadowed by the accomplishments of male colleagues and rivals. This is particularly true in the male-dominated fields of chemistry and physics, which experienced bursts of exponential growth in the 20th century, as many mysteries behind the building blocks of the universe began to unravel in rapid succession.

This project asked participants to consider how to portray “central elements” of science in an artistic light. We decided to use the opportunity to highlight and commemorate one or more women who contributed significantly to the discovery of elements of the periodic table.

A number of women have made seminal discoveries leading to a greater understanding of the nature of atoms and their properties. For our quilt, we focused on five whose scientific achievements include the discovery of an element or one of its isotopes:

  • Marie Curie (bottom right), the famous Polish physicist who discovered radium and polonium with her husband, Pierre, and made history by winning two Nobel Prizes for her work on radiation;
  • Berta Karlik (top right), an Austrian physicist and contemporary of Curie’s who discovered astatine, a radioactive element most commonly used for cancer therapy;
  • Lise Meitner (bottom left), a noted Austrian physicist and close friend of Karlik’s who discovered nuclear fission, identified an isotope of protactinium, and later became the namesake of element 109, meitnerium;
  • Ida Noddack (top right), a German physicist and chemist who discovered rhenium alongside her husband, Walter, and was nominated three times for a Nobel Prize, though never won; and
  • Marguerite Perey (center), a French physicist and student of Curie’s who discovered francium, a highly unstable radioactive metal.

The quilt was designed with several goals in mind: to accentuate the women in question with photographs, so viewers would know instinctively that they were actual historical figures; to connect the scientists with a geometric thread representing the weaving of both academic knowledge and sisterhood; and to bring to life the colors of the Cambridge Science Festival.

Gillian Smith has been designing and creating modern quilts and bags for the last five years. Recently she has been participating in an online community that designs a new quilt every day. She began quilting as a creative outlet while earning her PhD in Computer Science, and is now an assistant professor in Computer Science and Game Design at Northeastern University, as well as co-founder and technical director of Play Crafts, Inc., a company that builds tools for crafters. Her main interests lie at the intersection of the arts and STEM, and in improving the representation of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM and games. Her research focuses on how computers intersect the creative process.

Maia Weinstock (maiaw.com) is an editor, writer, and producer of science and children’s media. She is currently deputy editor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology News Office. Previously, Maia was a director at BrainpPOP, an award-winning producer of educational movies and games. She has also been an editor and reporter for Discover, SPACE.com, Aviation Week & Space Technology, and Science World.

Maia is a strong advocate for girls and women. She has led various efforts to increase the participation and visibility of women on Wikipedia, including edit-a-thons focusing on women in the STEM fields. Since 2013, Maia has been a guest blogger for Scientific American, where she writes about cultural and historic aspects of women in STEM. Maia also spearheads a number of personal media projects, including Scitweeps, a photo set depicting scientists and sci/tech popularizers in LEGO.

Maia holds a degree in Human Biology from Brown University. She lives in Cambridge.


11) DNA Hairpins | 297 Massachusetts Ave.

Every living cell in your body is composed of deoxyribonucleic acid, known as DNA. DNA is the genetic code that stores information about you. DNA acts as the blueprint for your body; it tells which cells to become stomach cells, tongue cells, and hair cells (and what color they should be!). DNA is replicated, or copied, as each cell grows and divides to ensure that every cell has the information needed.  As you can see from the green painting, DNA is in the shape of a helix and is composed of two sister strands with bases (bases look like bars between the two long strands in the painting) that complement each other. Normally A’s will bind with T’s, C’s will bind with G’s. These bases create a genetic code that cells can read just like the way we put letters together to make words. When DNA needs to be replicated, the two strands split and special proteins come. It is really important for cells to keep the DNA from getting damaged so the DNA can stay in the original order as the first cell.—-

Yet, DNA can get damaged. It has a lot of repetitive sequences (CAGCAGCAGCAG…) which can be problematic for a cell. These sequences can form secondary structures, different from a normal DNA double helix, called hairpins. How can they form? When there are long stretches of repeats, the C’s and G’s can bind to each other on the same strand rather than the opposite strand. Because there can be many repeats in the sequence, copying proteins might stutter or slip, causing a hairpin to form. The copying proteins could accidently copy repeats more than once. A hairpin can be seen in the blue painting in the lower left hand corner. Cells have special fixing proteins that can catch these different structures and return them back to normal helix structure.

But fixing proteins aren’t perfect and might miss a hairpin. Then once the fixing proteins arrive to unwind the hairpin to make it a helix again, the cell thinks there’s more DNA to be copied and so adds in more bases. This addition of bases, leads to the expansion of the repeats. So you could start out normally with 4 repeats but after replication, you could end up with 6 repeats! This can be seen in the orange painting. This expansion phenomenon is one of the major causes of many neurodegenerative (loss of function or death of neurons) diseases like Huntingtons disease. Even though Huntingtons is considered a rare disease, it is one of the more common hereditary diseases, affecting 30,000 people nationwide. As a graduate student at Tufts University in Molecular Biology, I am interested in studying what proteins are important to prevent these repeat expansions. By understanding which proteins are needed, we can further understand the progression and onset of the disease within an individual and throughout generations.

Artist: Trina Abbott
I am excited to be partnering with Jenn Nguyen to introduce you through these paintings to the concept of DNA hairpins.   I have been painting for over 12 years.  I also am a printer, work in encaustic ( wax and pigment) and most recently mosaics. My background in botany and marine biology inspires me to create art that shows the natural world, both microscopic, such as these paintings and macroscopic. There is a world we cant see without the aid of a microscope that is beautiful and interesting, such as the amazing patterns in this DNA. My most recent macroscopic project is paintings of frogs which I am showing at Cambridge Open Studios on April 26-27 at the Touch Art Gallery on Concord Avenue. Please come visit!

Scientist: Jenn Nguyen
I am a PhD candidate in Molecular Biology at Tufts University. I graduated with my BS with Honors in Biology from FSU in 2010. I’ve previously participated in after school science clubs as well as judging for local science fairs.  I have always been interested in trying to communicate harder concepts in science to a general audience, especially to younger learners. It is always a challenge to describe DNA and cellular functions because they are so microscopic! But I think DNA is a beautiful molecule and everyone should be able to appreciate the elegance of this nature made structure.  I’ve had a wonderful time working withTrina Abbot for this project and I think she has done a great job depicting DNA hairpins in a way I could never do!

12) Pre-Crystal | CCTV

Pre-Crystal is a generative art piece, which abstractly represents some of the conditions necessary for crystallization of an element. When crystallization occurs, adjacent molecules bind to each other in very specific ways. Also important to the process is the orientation of the molecules when they bind. These are the low-level conditions that ultimately lead to the larger beautiful crystal forms that we see at a macro level. Inspired by the actual process of crystallization, this piece imagines and abstracts molecular states just before crystallization.

Sands Fish is a computational artist and data scientist. He currently works at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and as a Research Affiliate at the Center for Civic Media at the MIT Media Lab. He organizes the Boston Creative Coders collective, which provides a monthly venue and welcoming community for local artists working primarily with code and other technologies as their medium. His current work focuses on information aesthetics and shape grammars.

Tim Atherton received his PhD in Physics in 2007 from the University of Exeter in the UK where he studied frustration phenomena in liquid crystals as part of the Electromagnetic Materials group with Professor Roy Sambles FRS. He then spent two years as a postdoctoral scholar at Case Western Reserve University in the Rosenblatt group contributing to a diverse range of projects: from the Rayleigh-Taylor instability to direct imaging of liquid crystalline order via the technique of Optical Nanotomography. He joined the faculty of Tufts University in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in Fall 2011.

Scientist: Justin Roberts
I am a graduating senior from Northeastern University majoring in chemistry with a minor in biology. As a kid I spent my time running my own experiments in the kitchen, from electroplating coins to making slime. My first interest in crystals came about when I made my own rock candy from a sugar solution, and I was soon crystallizing a range of different compounds. As part of Northeastern’s co-op program I have performed scientific research in diverse fields, from materials science, to medicinal chemistry, to physics. While working abroad in Japan, I used X-rays to study crystal structure on the molecular level. I’m glad to be able to share my enthusiasm for crystals and science in such a great event and at such a great time. Remember that 2014 is the international year of crystallography!

13) Walkway Mural
300 Massachusetts Ave.

More information to come.

14) Release 2
1 State Street

The breakdown of energetic materials has always fascinated me. These materials have enormous amounts of energy stored in chemical bonds. That energy can be liberated through intense vibrations that rip the molecules into fragments. This image represents the molecular mechanisms by which microscopic reactions generate shockwaves in the macroscopic world.

Leora Cooper
PhD Student in Physical Chemistry
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Brian Reeves expresses his fascination with the printmakerly nature of Universe by envisioning and often creating small, medium and large art projects that have appeared in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, Denmark, Sweden, Greece, Italy, Austria, Serbia, Argentina, Korea, and many others including Portland, Maine where he lives and works. Reeves earned his MFA in printmaking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he co-founded Slop Art and pioneered the consumer confidence-stabilizing Certified Masterworks™ label. He’s currently working on finishing the Effluence Express shippable showroom franchise and a symmetry drawing tool called Symmetron. Reeves is Full-Time Visiting Faculty in the Graphic Arts area at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston where he’s co-founded the Graphic Arts Public Lab and Programming Activity Lab and is teaching two courses this Summer in the SMFA Continuing Education program.


15) Botulinum toxin | 297 Massachusetts Ave.

Liana Aleksanyan was born in Gyumri, Armenia on March 28, 1998. She began painting and free drawing in sketchbooks and canvases at the age of 13. With the passion and drive to learn new techniques, Liana signed up for the Watercolor Painting Youth Program taught at the Arsenal Center for the Arts. When classes were canceled due to small enrollment, Liana requested to be placed into the adult program and was prepared to challenge herself. During the summer of 2013, she partook in a group project to clean up the community and paint a mural on a bike path. She is currently a student at Watertown High School and has hopes of attending Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She will be participating in the Summer Intensives art program offered at MassArt. Her inspiration is Claude Monet and many of her art pieces reflect the beauty of nature.