For the last 10 months Glasgow-based artist Ally Wallace has spent two days a week in residence in the Nimmo lab at the University of Glasgow. Now the results of this exciting art-science collaboration are on show at The Memorial Chapel, Main Building, University of Glasgow, G12 8QQ. The show runs until 6th of November.
Using a mixture of iPad drawings, felt-tip pen sketches, gouache paintings, and video pieces Ally has produced an eclectic mix of art as a means to interpret the scientific process in an imaginative and thought provoking manner. Ally has used everyday lab objects, sights and sounds to explore creativity in science. From inter-woven plastic bands found on a (messy!) lab bench (linked nucleotide chains?), to de-constructed images of agar plates (scientists like to deconstruct theories and put them together again, no?) to intriguing sound-scapes of the lab – the exhibition will certainly open your senses to the the engine room of scientific discovery – the lab.
Of the work Ally said “The aim of the project was to make art in response to the laboratory environment, focusing in particular on the work carried out by Allan, a Research Associate in Hugh’s group. The Plant Science group uses several different approaches to study the plant circadian clock, particularly the ways in which variations in temperature and light influence the clock and hence plant behaviour. Exhibiting here in the Memorial Chapel gives the work an additional edge. It is slightly surreal to show the outcomes of an art/science residency in such an emotive and seemingly unrelated venue as this and there is an interesting relationship between the work and the space which houses it”.
Further details of the art-science residency and Ally’s other work can be found, here, and the link to the exhibition video piece is: https://vimeo.com/141990692
I’ve been in Manchester this week attending the joint European Biological Rhythms Society (EBRS) and World Congress of Chronobiology (WCC). I presented a short communication entitled ‘An hnRNP isoform switch links temperature perception to regulation of the Arabidopsis circadian clock’. It was a wide and varied programme – although plant-clock research was thin on the ground (I was one of only two plant-clock presentations).
The highlight for me though was Michael Menaker’s plenary talk – the ‘grandfather’ of chronobiology research gave an overview of his journey through chronobiology research from when he was a graduate student in the USA the 1950’s. It was interested to hear him say how easy he felt it was to get funding back then – “…you would need to be a real idiot not to get a grant funded back then” and how the money sloshing about then was largely due to the space race. Another nugget of insight was “If you haven’t done any failed experiments, you haven’t tried hard enough”
Another quote that stuck with me was from Ueli Schibler’s Plenary lecture – the quote is, I think, attributed to Bertrand Russell – Mathematician/Philosopher/Writer and Nobel Laureate for Literature in 1950 – when he said “One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important”.
Hi – here’s a fun lab-based representation of the circadian clock! It’s been put together using everyday bits-and-pieces found in the lab, and includes things that oscillate, or cycle, and there’s also a balance to represent clock compensation. There’s also some quite random things to add to the concept of the clock responding to chaos. The sculpture has been developed as part of Ally Wallace’s Art-Science collaboration with the Nimmo lab, funded by the Leverhulme Trust. Check out the link, here, for more details.
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The RNA Journal is twenty years old and as part of their anniversary around 130 researchers in the field of RNA biology have contributed some of their personal reflections of working in this area. Contributors include Douglas Black, Michael Rosbash and Alberto Kornblihtt.
I’ve browsed through some of the essays and one that caught my attention was ‘Thoughts on NGS, alternative splicing and what we still need to know‘ by Kristen Lynch. Here she emphasises the need to determine the functional consequences of alternative splicing for an organism, and as she pointedly says ‘To truly appreciate the full impact of alternative splicing on biologic processes, and argue against those who wonder if it might all be “noise,” we need to do better. The question is how to achieve this goal’. [Note that NGS in the title of the article refers to Next Generation Sequencing]
As a relative newcomer to the field of AS, I think it’ll be useful for me to delve into these articles – they seem to be a refreshing way to learn how quickly research into AS has ‘evolved’ as well as providing an honest outlook as to what areas seem to be a priority for future work.
The cover art in interesting too – it is entitled ‘Group in Sea, 1979, by Philip Guston‘. He was an American abstract expressionist painter.
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I’ve been working with Ally Wallace to develop cartoon-like drawings that illustrate our research – here is some work in progress. I like the lab soundscape in the background. The aim was to develop something that might appeal to a younger audience, and tries to take an imaginative approach to the subject. Maybe a bit too wordy, so I’m now doing much more stripped back drawings – these were all done on an iPad using the ProCreate app. Then again, maybe it would be better as a short pamphlet/book….let’s see.
I was asked the other day if I could explain our research in 45 seconds, and after fumbling about with cumbersome nuggets such as ‘post-transcriptional mechanism’ and ‘spliceosome‘ and ‘exon-intron junctions’ decided it probably needed a drastic change of tact!
Anyway, it struck me that one of the key things to get across about alternative splicing is how important the inclusion (or exclusion) of an exon in a pre-mRNA has on how the mRNA is read or interpreted. If you substitute reading RNA messages with English grammar it reminds me of a funny Panda-related sentence that Hugh introduced me to a while back. It emphasises just how important a comma (or alternate exon, for example) has on the whole interpretation of the message. Compare these two sentences describing Pandas:
Eats shoots and leaves OR Eats, shoots and leaves
Notice how the comma completely changes the whole meaning and interpretation of the statement.
I think that this could be a good way to try to put across the key feature of splicing. Can it be done in 45 secs? Watch this space!
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I suppose ‘It’s About Time’ we actually posted something!
It’s taken us a while but hopefully this is the start of an interesting way to disseminate what we get up to in our labs and provide a sort of diary of our activities.
During the establishment of this blog we’ve talked a lot about how time and seasons seemed to be a huge influence on artists and songwriters (I’ve been introduced to the delights of Fairport Convention & The Incredible String Band, for example) and I’m sure that this will be a subject of future posts – Time and the passage of Time sure seems to get under our skins, no?