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Teens discover intersection of art and science

A visit to the California Science Center was one of many awe-inspiring experiences enjoyed by students in the  Sci | Art NanoLab Summer Institute.
The Sci | Art NanoLab Summer Institute — a two-week summer collaboration of UCLA's Art | Sci Center and the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) — recently introduced 40 high school students to the art and science that stimulates scientific innovation.
“Creativity is creativity, and whether it is used in artistic or scientific endeavors it needs to be cultivated,” said James Gimzewski, scientific director of the Art | Sci Center and a professor of chemistry and biochemistry. “The NanoLab strives to ensure that the scientists and artists of tomorrow will be well-rounded thinkers.”
Guided by a team of UCLA science and art graduate students, NanoLab participants studied cutting-edge scientific research, popular culture and contemporary arts to discover connections between science and art.
On the science side, the program’s focus was on nanotechnology through the study of optics, materials and new devices. Daily scientific activities consisted of visits to labs like UCLA’s Physics Anechoic Chamber, hands-on experiments, and meetings with world-renowned UCLA scientists including Environmental Health Sciences Professor Hilary Godwin and Electrical Engineering Assistant Professor Aydogan Ozcan.
The artistic perspective was explored through popular culture and art projects inspired by nano and bio sciences and included visits to museums such as the Hammer Museum and Getty Center, daily sci-fi movie screenings and meetings with famous contemporary artists, including Gil Kuno.
“There are so many wonderful resources available at UCLA and throughout Los Angeles,” said Victoria Vesna, artistic director of the Art | Sci Center and professor of design | media arts. “It is gratifying to be able to expose high school students to these varied trains of thought and see the amazing things their young minds can dream up.”
Enthusiastic students posted daily blog posts about their experiences in the class and worked in teams on nano-themed final projects based on the Institute motto, “Imagine the Impossible.” On July 2, program faculty and parents of the participating students were treated to a creative array of sophisticated presentations on topics ranging from clothing that morphs depending on the weather, to gene therapy for the eradication of HIV.
The annual program has proven so popular that, even though enrollment is limited to high school students, requests to participate have come from people of all ages. To address this interest, organizers have posted selected videos, lectures, tutorials and more at
Sci | Art NanoLab is sponsored by UCLA’s Art | Sci Center, the department of Design | Media Arts, and the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI). To increase collaboration opportunities, the NanoLab also runs in parallel with NanoSystems Chemistry and Engineering Research (NanoCER), a graduate program at CNSI, and the Design | Media Arts Institute high school program at the Broad Arts Center.
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