Hi, I’m Leah – a cell biologist and a triplet, originally from Frankfurt, Germany. Having shared a womb with my two brothers probably genetically predestined me to become a scientist, as I wanted to learn more about the fascinating ways in which organisms grow, develop, and reproduce.
In my current postdoc work at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, MA, I am driven by my passion to understand fundamental principles that allow cells to divide, which organisms need in order to develop. More specifically, my research is focused on the centromere – a structure on each chromosome that is essential for a cell to properly segregate their duplicated DNA content during each division.
Surrounded by tools that allow me to visualize structures that are invisible to the majority of the world, such as the centromere, I feel incredibly privileged. At the same time, I also feel frustrated by the challenges that come up when I try to explain my research to friends and family. In my quest to find a better way to describe my work to non-scientists, I have discovered that art is a potent ally.
Raised as the daughter of two artists, I have been confronted with and surrounded by art my entire life, but I have only now realized that merging my artistic interests with my science is a powerful way of communicating science. Art is a way to break down the barriers between scientists and non-scientists, and make science more accessible. It also provides a great venue through which we can appreciate the beauty and the science that exists in everything that surrounds us.
Art and science complement each other and are similar in many respects, yet they are completely different on other levels. In science, you address problems by forming a hypothesis and following a sense of logic. You need to properly plan and control your experiments. In art, you have the freedom to go with your instincts. Art allows space for playfulness, creativity and for spontaneous exploration that science does not. Science can be abstract, whereas art is inherently visual. Art therefore has two functions – it balances my brain doing scientific work, but it also has the power to translate science and thus to communicate complex and abstract ideas in a simplified, visual way.
My goal is to show people that science can also be humorous. Yes, we do work in labs and (occasionally) wear white lab coats, but there’s a lot more to us than that! Science is fun, it is everywhere, and it should concern and interest every one of us. The same way a microscope allows us to see the invisible, the merging of science and art will help us to see the fun and beauty of science.
Stay tuned for more of Leah’s art in June!