stem cells in their environment

Science & Art Get Romantic

November 2018

by Jessica Sells, Public Engagement Officer for the CSCRM

Back in November 2018 the Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine at King's College London hosted a Science-Art speed dating event. The aim of the evening was to introduce artists and scientists who were keen to get involved in a collaborative project exploring stem cell research through the medium of art. The overall goal of the project is to create an exhibition of the works generated to share with the public, and engage them with the current status of stem cell research.

Of course, the artists from Chisenhale Studios arrived promptly, whilst the scientists had a mad dash to get their experiments finished before rushing into the meeting room! Over tea and custard creams, I gave a brief welcome and introduction before explaining how the speed dating would work...

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Rather than the more “traditional” version where participants have a few minutes to talk about themselves to see if any romantic sparks fly, I hoped that by using this platform some artistic sparks would fly between potential partnerships! All artists took a seat on one row of chairs, and all scientists on another row facing them. The person directly opposite you was your partner for 5 minutes, to explain (briefly!) the research or the art they each worked on. After the 5 minutes were up, the scientists rotated so that everyone had the chance to meet each other to determine whether they were keen to work together.

It got off to a bit of a jittery start... 5 minutes flew by too swiftly for the first couple of “dates”, but people quickly got the hang of how to condense the explanations of their work. A lot of the scientists fed back that it was a really useful process, and by the end of the evening had their research projects down to a quick, succinct few sentences! Always a useful tool for communicating science! The topics ranged from bioengineering of pluripotent stem cells to investigate skin formation, to layering light for photograms. Interestingly, a lot of the daters discovered cross overs between artistic and scientific methods, whether metaphorical or technical, which fostered a strong collaborative atmosphere.

Following the succession of 8 dates in a row, people got a feel for who they would like to work with based on their techniques or research areas. Everyone was really inspired and fascinated by all of the knowledge shared from both sides of the project, which was lovely to see. Once everyone had paired up, the group went for a tour of the labs to see the research and techniques in the flesh, before heading off home with appropriate contact details for their new project partners.

Overall the session was a success, and I would highly recommend science-art speed dating events for an efficient (and fun) way of initiating partnerships. But perhaps make sure people practice keeping their explanations to within a few minutes before starting!

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