A national event focused on the nexus of art and science attracted influential leaders from both worlds, including Carol LaFayette, a professor of visualization at Texas A&M University, and head of the National Science Foundation’s Network for Sciences, Engineering, Arts and Design.
The Conference on Art and Science, Engineering, and Medicine Frontier Collaborations: Ideation, Translation & Realization took place Nov. 11-15, 2015 in Irvine, Calif., at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
More than 100 experts from fields associated with the national academies, as well as experts in creative fields such as music and dance, teamed up at the conference in multidisciplinary groups formed to tackle complex issues with solutions combining artistic and scientific perspectives. Their objective is to break down conceptual and institutional barriers to teaching, learning and research.
These self-directed groups were asked to mull complex problems and present solutions, first in a preliminary presentation on the second day of the conference, and ultimately in a final report on the last day of the conference.
Historically, complex problems such as the development of heart stents, space telescope lenses and air bag systems were developed using multidisciplinary approaches combining scientific and artistic perspectives. This approach also helped biologists familiar with the architectural principles of tensegrity gain a deeper understanding of how cells are structured.
The conference, said LaFayette, was formatted to create this kind of multidisciplinary syngergy, immersing participants in extended discussions with others who may be working in similar areas, but from completely different perspectives.
The event was hosted by the Keck Futures Initiative, a National Academies program developed to catalyze research at the intersection of science, engineering and medicine.
LaFayette, who also directs the College of Architecture’s Institute for Applied Creativity, was joined at the conference by André Thomas, an award-winning game developer who teaches game development courses at Texas A&M, and graduate visualization students Schaefer Mitchell and Fermi Nivedi Pramananda Perumal.
The event also saw the debut of a mobile application, developed by LaFayette, Thomas, Mitchell and Perumal, that created chance encounters and sparked discussions among conference attendees.
Using information and avatars submitted by attendees, the application suggested meetings with other conference attendees based on an algorithm developed by Perumal using IBM’s “Watson,” an artificial intelligence engine.