An art award for a picture of a rock? A decade of the UW-Madison Cool Science Image Contest

Celebrating the art of science is something the University of Wisconsin-Madison Cool Science Image Contest has been doing since its inception 10 years ago as part of The Why Files. The 2020 winning images include entries as diverse as videos of neural stem cells, eye-ball licking geckos and yes, even a picture of rock: actually a thin section of tractolite, an igneous rock composed of feldspar and olivine  collected near Duluth Minnesota form the Proterozoic Mid-continent Rift. This image was collected by Natalie Betz, PhD, Associate Director of the UW-Madison Master of Science in Biotechnology program and her daughter Anya Wolterman, a recent graduate of Macalester College with degrees in Geology and Physics. Natalie has a long-time connection with Promega and the BioPharmaceutical Technology Center Institute, so we reached out to her to get the perspective of a contest entrant.  Natalie is answering for both her and her daughter while her daughter is away doing some trail maintenance in the Rockies and is not available for comment.

This thin section of troctolite, an igneous rock composed of feldspar and olivine, was collected near Duluth, Minnesota, from the Proterozoic Midcontinent Rift. The rift is a tear in the Earth’s crust caused by continental plates colliding in the Lake Superior region. Polarized light accentuates vivid colors.

Promega Connections: Why did you decide to enter the UW Cool Science Image contest?

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Creating Sonic Sculptures with Artist-in-Residence, Joe Willie Smith

Joe Willie Smith’s instrumental art installation is a collaborative experience of sound and color.

Joe Willie Smith has always been a creator. As a young child growing up in Milwaukee, his mother encouraged him to make art and find beauty in the everyday. Following years of work in printing and graphic design (including posters for Gil-Scott Heron and Chaka Khan), Smith began channeling his inspiration and creativity into building playable “sonic sculptures” out of found objects. “They’re not all considered instruments…sometimes I just make soundscapes out of them,” Smith says.

As the artist-in-residence for the Promega Fall Art Showcase, Smith set out to create a sonic sculpture from collected items from the Promega campus. He planned to perform on the instrument at the opening of the Art Show, but his creative process led to something much more—a collaborative experience in sound and color.

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Promega Art Showcases Explore Creativity, Science and the Unknown

A visitor studies a piece at the current Promega Art Showcase.
A visitor studies a piece at the current Promega Art Showcase.

Albert Einstein once wrote: “to raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle requires creative imagination and marks real advances in science.” The marriage of science and creativity, it seems, is indispensable for exploration and the discovery of new ideas.

As a life sciences company, Promega supports the work of scientists who are tasked with unraveling mysteries and who ask questions in an effort to get answers that improve the lives of others. Because creative thinking plays a key role in the scientific discovery process, Promega supports artistic exploration in many forms. As an organization, we appreciate that creativity reinforces the type of imagination that inspires scientific progress and innovation.

Since 1996, Promega Corporation has sponsored quarterly art showcases at the Promega BioPharmaceutical Technology Center on East Cheryl Parkway in Fitchburg, WI. This artistic initiative came about in an effort to explore the depths of creativity and science, and to demystify biotechnology and the work of Promega for our community. Promega Art Showcases, which occur four times per year and are open to the public, have featured the work of local, national and international artists, as well as the art of Promega employees. Continue reading “Promega Art Showcases Explore Creativity, Science and the Unknown”