AHSE2199/SCI1299 The Intersection of Biology, Art and Technology

This course crosses boundaries between art, biology and technology, via hands-on projects inspired by work in all three fields. The overarching principle of the course is that biology, art, and technology are inextricably linked so it makes sense to offer a course that explicitly speaks to all three disciplines. My personal goal is to provide a learning environment that will enable students to move fluidly from one field to another and easily transition between thinking and doing so as to garner creative strength not possible from the perspective of each field alone. This intersection opens up thrilling questions: How do technological breakthroughs inform new possibilities in biology and art? How might biology inform art practice and how might art inform biological concepts? What are the implications of being able to change the genome of an organism? In answering these questions we will conduct a range of activities based on student preferences, which can include frontline genomic manipulation experiments, utilization of visualization technologies such as Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) to  create artworks, first-hand interaction with expert practitioners in biology, art and technology fields, activism and climate change projects. In addition to laboratory experiments and other short-term projects there will be a final major student self-determined project. The topic is wide-open, and the only constraint is that it needs to be bio-inspired.

IBAT is shaped around topics and themes.  For example, we are now well into another geological epoch termed the Anthropocene, which is a chronicle of the effects of human activity on the biosphere.  It is fitting that we begin the course with an investigation of the phenomena of climate change, the loss of biological diversity, disappearance of habitats and consider what steps we might take individually and collectively to contribute to the sustainability of the planet and its inhabitants. Evolution is the unifying theme in biology so we will consider major evolutionary concepts and appreciate the relationship between diversity and kinship. Other topics include study of some complex biological systems and what happens when the systems go awry such as in cancer and how new genetic technologies might be employed to eliminate the effect of the genetic difference and its outcome.

In addition to the integrated aspects of art in technology and biology we will address some interesting questions about art itself such as:  Like language is art an essential component of what it means to be human?  What is art after all? Why does authenticity matter? Is there such a thing as talent or is really all about hard work?

Credits: 4 AHS, 4 SCI

Usually Offered: Spring