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February 19, 2019

Reclaiming Science Through Art

Art in the Lab at St. Francis College

Picture it: A room filled with rows of microscopes, boxes of teaching slides, and a variety of anatomical models. At first glance, it looks like your typical science lab, but the room also has a hint of paint and houses sketch paper, sharpened pencils, markers, and paintbrushes. You have stumbled upon a space where science and art mesh effortlessly. Welcome to Art in the Lab!

Art in the Lab at St. Francis CollegeDr. Alison Dell, St. Francis College (SFC) Assistant Professor of Biology, and Dr. Irina Ellison of Mercy College, will host the next workshop of this ground breaking initiative on February 20th in the biology labs at SFC.

Attendees are encouraged to bring soil samples from their neighborhoods to test, observe, and draw. They will have the opportunity to learn about organisms living in soil, test their local samples and practice their brushstrokes. Like all Art in the Lab events, participants will receive a tutorial in microscope use and basic tips for drawing.

As a scientist and artist, Dell finds a synergy between the two fields and is grateful to fuse her passions and share it with others. "Science and art are both human ways of trying to understand the world. They are creative, process-based endeavors. You have a question that you want to ask. How will you answer it? For me, it has never been enough to just read something in a book. In order to really understand it, I like to draw and I like to be in the lab."

The event's theme supports Mary Mattingly's soil library currently on display in the Environmental Empathies exhibit in the Callahan Center Art Gallery at SFC. The artist's installation and the upcoming Art in the Lab workshop seek to forge a personal connection between participants and nature in an effort to raise awareness about climate change. "We will be very happy if participants walk away from the event with a better understanding of the complexity and importance of the earth we stand on," said Dell.

Art in the Lab at St. Francis College

Created in 2015, Art in the Lab seeks to make scientific materials accessible to the general public and supplement traditional ways of learning science. Reading textbooks and articles or listening to lectures are often not enough to leave a lasting impact on individuals. By combining science with drawing, Art in the Lab offers hands-on experience that opens up new paths to learning and helps us make sense of scientific concepts that may first appear impersonal or too difficult to understand.

The initiative prides itself on inclusivity, curiosity, and fun. "Some participants are artists who don't know how to use a microscope. Some are scientists who feel they don't know how to draw. Some participants are curious or have a personal connection to the theme of the event, but have no training in science or art practices. Everyone is welcome," said Dell.

Art in the Lab events are free and open to the public, but RSVP to confirm your spot at the microscope. To find out more, visit

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