Suffolk students and faculty are promoting scientific understanding through art at the Cambridge Science Festival, where a sculpture representing Vitamin B12, a painting related to the botulin toxin, and an exhibit on plastics and recycling are on display in the windows of Central Square businesses for the duration of the annual celebration of science, technology, engineering, art, and math.
Some say that Vitamin B12 is the “nature’s most beautiful” vitamin, says Professor Melanie Berkmen of the chemistry and biochemistry department. The sculpture depicting the vitamin is a collaboration, with science students offering expert advice to Lisa French, director of the Illustration program at the New England School of Art & Design at Suffolk University.
Biochemistry major Anastasia Murthy led the efforts of the undergraduate affiliate chapter of the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology on the science behind the project. Students Minh Bui, Artemisa Bulku and Kevin Ramos also got involved, along with faculty advisers Berkmen and Celeste Peterson. The artwork is installed alongside others at 297 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, through April 28.
“It was a really cool concept to bring together science and art. It was especially fun and inspiring uniting the chemistry and biology departments with faculty from the New England School of Art and Design,” said Murthy.
The painting related to botulin toxin is the creation of two Suffolk student groups—the American Chemical Society and the Minority Association of Engineers and Scientists. Students Naira Aleksanyan and Briana McDowell served as the scientist advisers, and Liana Aleksanyan, Naira’s sister, at left, was the artist. This protein is made by bacteria and sometimes found in honey. Botulin toxin is the active ingredient in Botox.
“This was a great opportunity to convey science through art and teach people that creativity can be found in all aspects of life,” said Naira Aleksanyan.
Professor Jennifer Fuchel, who teaches Graphic Design at The New England School of Art & Design, said that, for the first time, she understands what those little numbers inside the triangles on plastic bottles mean after working with Elizabeth S. Sterner, a postdoctoral associate at MIT. Their display at 45 Prospect Street, Cambridge, shows the major classes of recyclable polymers, what they're made from, and what they're recycled into.
"Liz's and my intention was to explain what the recycling numbers were with the hopes that people will decide to buy products that are packaged in lower-number plastics. These plastics are more easily recycled and better for the environment," said Fuchel.