Minu Madhvani's blog

Secret Treasures in the Biomedical Research Library

I rarely go to the Biomedical Research Library, but when I do, I go see what is new and popping Special Collections. Actually, this quarter was the first time I explored the Special Collections in this library, of which I previously had not known its existence. It looked like a normal part of the library, with book stacks. However, there were special encased displays, which presented some interesting artwork. The theme of some of the displays in the special collections seemed to revolve around birds, specifically parrots.

LASER #2: Well-roundedness is inspiring

I attended another LASER this quarter that not only was more interesting in regards to the different art projects presented, but there were a lot more speakers as well. In addition, most, if not all of the projects, were new in the presentation. The artist who developed the “Infinity” art l sci exhibit for the week also presented his project. This was one of the projects that interested me the most because I spent about 2-4 years working with infinity in homework problems and learning it in class, but did not really imagine it as a physical entity.

Dinosaurs, Technology, or Imitating Thunder?: Hidden world in Culver City

The past weekend, I visited the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City. I did not realize this, but when I would travel and explore Los Angeles, I passed by the building and thought it was very old and a little eerie. I did not realize I passed by this place when I first heard the name, but only realized it when I paid a visit. It is deceivingly small, and is a bit compact inside. However, this museum has so many interesting things.

Fowler, oh Fowler, wherefore art thou so strange?

I have not been inside the Fowler Museum till this quarter during my time at UCLA and regret that I have not gone sooner because it is so interesting and beautiful. The highlighted exhibit was “Making Strange” by Vivan Sundaram. He obtained his education from India and continued studying art in London. I thought this exhibit was probably the strangest that I have encountered, hence the name.

What is an "Anthropocene"?

The Zen Center of Los Angeles is a very interesting and unique place, resembling a Buddhist temple. In this place, I was able to experience a reading of an excerpt from a new novel about to be released on shelves, Love in the Anthropocene. This word is very unfamiliar and unusual to me, and looking it up I came across how experts explain the definition. According to Smithsonian Magazine, “Anthropocene” is the new term to define the present era we as humans live in.

LASERs do not have lasers

When I first learned about LASERs, I imagined an exhibit involving lasers and art in some why, since it would be sponsored by the Art l Sci center. I actually have heard about these events through my Society and Genetics counselor as he would send them out on the listserv. I had not attended one till this class, and I am glad that I had. LASER stands for Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendevous, where artists, scientists, and bioartists present their innovative recent new works.

I am a monkey that consumes pig!

Last class meeting was beast, literally, as we were able to discuss our inner spirit animal. My spirit animal is the monkey as assigned by the Chinese Zodiac. It was interesting exploring and gaining more insight about monkeys and what herbs relate to the animal.  Many of these herbs are ones that I have not heard about and have very interesting names, like motherwort. When I first saw this name, it reminded me of Harry Potter. One of the herbs that I found surprising at first related to monkey was ephedra. Ephedra is known to be a drug, which is why I found it also amusing to be related to my spirit animal. As I thought more about it, I felt that it does make sense since I think of monkeys as exploratory animals and with being curious they might stumble upon and ingest ephedra. 

Photo credit: Wikipedia.org

We also learned about pigs, and how much of materials made by man, especially everyday items, are derived in some form or another. Watching the video about how pigs are used in many different items that I consume was very eye opening and enlightening. Hence the title of my post, because it fits yet does not make sense since monkeys do not really eat pigs as a staple. I was raised not eating beef or pork and even today still stray from eating it. It makes me reevaluate my reasoning for how I follow this in my life and how my commitment to it is quite hypocritical. The very soap I use could be derived from pigs as stated in the video and even things that I eat may contain some pork content for flavor. I do not think I will change my eating habits and start eating pork even though I already consume it, but it is something to think about how I plan my lifestyle and maybe understand and contemplate the reasoning behind certain lifestyle choices. 

Fancy Pig-shaped Soap

Photo credit: www.giannarose.com

My spirit animal is very unique as there are many species of monkeys. Humans relate closely with Apes, specifically chimpanzee. However, I do not think I can compare my personality to a chimpanzee, but maybe sometimes when I am having fun. To be honest, I did not see how last class meeting’s topic related to bioart. I understood that Hox genes are universal across species and animals and that would constitute as the biological part other than the animals themselves. However, bringing in food and creating a portfolio does not really strike me as artistic so I was left a bit in the dark as to the relation of the session, besides the projects discussed and related to the conference with Siddarth. Nevertheless, it was very interesting.

My "spirit relative" from Planet of the Apes

Photo credit: www.cinemaretro.com

After class, I thought the newest Art l Sci center exhibit was pretty cool, especially as I had not really thought of imagining what “infinity” would look like. It reminded me of the film Interstellar when Matthew McConaughey was in the fifth dimension. I thought it was cool and very fitting how the artist imagined infinity and after pondering, I might believe that the concept and physical form of infinity would look as such. 

 

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Video credit: Me

 

 

References:

  1. Albert, David. "Explaining It All: How We Became the Center of the Universe." The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 Aug. 2011.  <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/14/books/review/the-beginning-of-infinity-by-david-deutsch-book-review.html?_r=0>.
  2. "Erowid Ephedra Vault." Erowid Ephedra Vault. <https://www.erowid.org/plants/ephedra/ephedra.shtml>.
  3. "MA HUANG, AN ANCIENT CHINESE STIMULANT." MA HUANG, AN ANCIENT CHINESE STIMULANT. <http://www.botgard.ucla.edu/html/botanytextbooks/economicbotany/Ephedra/>.
  4. "Motherwort: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings - WebMD." WebMD. WebMD.  <http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-126-motherwort.aspx?activeingredientid=126&activeingredientname=motherwort>.
  5. "Planting & Growing Ephedra Sinica Seeds." Ephedrine Web Ephedrine HCL Ephedra Diet Pills Facts Reviews.  <http://ephedrineweb.com/ephedra-sinica-seeds/>.
  6. <www.chinahighlights.com%2Ftravelguide%2Fchinese-zodiac%2Fmonkey.asp>.

 

More info on  Monkeys! (Based on suggested research questions)

Monkeys are used largely for HIV research and also vaccination research. They relate the closest to humans, as humans are considered part of the Apes family. The closest of the Apes is the chimpanzee. Monkeys are also studied in their natural habitat. Professor Susan Perry does research on white capuchin monkeys in Costa Rica to study their behaviors and personalities. This can relate to how human culture and behavior is studied and how we differ and relate to our closest animal relatives.

Monkeys can be used at home, unfortunately, through means of illegal pet trade. Some people believe they make good pets, such as the capuchin monkey, which is actually the worst choice. Use them as sight animals or emotional support animals. Professor says: “Monkeys cannot take care of humans and humans cannot take care of monkeys.” Capuchins are the worst as they are very naturally hyperactive and aggressive, especially when hitting puberty. (The representation in Friends is for the most part true). Monkeys are also poached in their natural habitat, usually for the pleasure of the poacher and maybe sometimes for their skin.

Monkeys can actually be food for other monkeys. Ex. Red colobus is chimpanzee food.

Photo credit: HuffingtonPost.com

In India, monkeys are thought of street animals common to encounter. Usually cows are on the street or monkeys climb around houses. I stayed in the city suburbs with my family and not in the village. Monkeys roam around even in the city areas in Southern India, but not as much as becoming more industrialized and technology oriented. However, this has apparently become a problem for India’s efforts to wards improving technology, especially the Internet. Recently, monkeys have been reported to eating the fibre-optic cables, slowing down the progress of advancement of technology.

One of the Hindu deities is Hanuman, who is based on a monkey and is regarded highly by Hindus.

In China, perceived with more concern about saving the monkeys, especially rare and exotic species high in the mountains, the snub nosed monkey. Efforts to save the species sparked a movement in China on environmental awareness and maintenance. In China, there is deity as well based on a monkey. It is referred to as a Chinese Trickster god.

Photo credit: Discovery.com

In Western society, I do not believe monkeys are thought of as mischievous or mythological.  I believe they are prioritized for research and more efforts and thought about them are geared towards saving them and pushing towards humane research with them. In addition, they are used in a more entertainment and media light, with children’s shows such as Zaboomafoo and Curious George and even films such as Planet of the Apes and King Kong. Capitalism and Hollywood seems to surround monkeys and monkey perceptions as well as myths in Western culture.

Photo credit:  nationalgeographic.com

When I think of a monkey, I think of playfulness. I think of a monkey as an exploratory animal, one who is curious, mischievous, but also plays innocent and friendly, depending on who it encounters and how it perceives the encounter (dangerous, harmless, etc).

References:

  1. "How China's Snub-nosed Monkeys Were Saved." CBSNews. CBS Interactive,. <http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/how-chinas-snub-nosed-monkeys-were-saved/>.
  2. "Kashgar Tribal Artifacts - Life for the Modern Nomad | Handmade Jewellery, Ethnic Handicrafts, Antique Furniture." The Hindu God Hanuman. <http://www.kashgar.com.au/articles/the-hindu-god-hanuman-monkey-god-and-hero-of-the-ramayana>.
  3. "MONKEY - the Chinese Trickster God (Chinese Mythology)." Godchecker. <http://www.godchecker.com/pantheon/chinese-mythology.php?deity=MONKEY>.
  4. "Monkeys 'hinder India Internet Drive' - BBC News." BBC News. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-32172798>.
  5. "Primates in Laboratories." PETA. <http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-experimentation/primates-laboratories/>.
  6. "13 Species of Monkeys Found in The Indian Subcontinent." NextGEN Gallery RSS. <http://www.walkthroughindia.com/wildlife/13-species-of-monkeys-found-in-the-indian-subcontinent/>.

 

 

Water: A Triple Threat

            The topic last week was very eye opening and also simple. Much of what comes to mind when considering art are things that are unique and complex. However, after learning about water, I feel that intricacy in art is overrated. The fact that water can be a subject of art seems so rare, yet in my opinion seems to fit well. I have been exposed to water being used as a medium art in the simplest form: as a child playing water cups with different water levels was a usual experience in grade school.

Saving the world, one type of honey at a time!

 This week was all about bees. I have to admit, before this class and the lecture, I did not realize or think how important bees are to society. I actually feel uncomfortable around them, thinking as a child that they would sting me at every opportunity they get. I remember panicking as a child in elementary school whenever a bee would land on me as I was playing outside, waiting for it to leave just because I was afraid of its sting, unaware most of the time that it is usually a last resort for the bee.

Love Your Environment!

This week was a very interesting session as we touched upon a very important yet unpopular subject: plants! As an MCDB major, DNA, genomics, and the human body are the main interests of the students and faculty involved. For my major, we have to complete a lab requirement and I chose the class that focused on plants. Many of my peers looked at me obliviously, asking why would I take such a class for my laboratory requirement when I could have chosen something more interesting. I am one of the few in my major that likes plants and enjoys learning about them.

Preserved Poo

The past week was a very interesting class filled with very interesting topics and pieces, filled with uncomfortable and unlikely conversations in a strangely comfortable atmosphere. I was amazed by Kathy High and her recent work considering microbiomes and fecal transplants was very unique. I had not encountered the subject before in the scientific field as microbiology work usually is involved with disease processes or in my courses, the symbiotic relationship between bacteria and plants.

DIYBio + EcoBio

This week, learning about DIYBio and EcoBio was very interesting. First off, I was not aware that DIYBio existed till learning about it in class. Simply, DIYBio is the idea that science and research can be done in a low-cost, non- industrial, non-institutional laboratory built and contributed by and for the community. I have to admit, when it was first explained, I was a bit confused because the name “do-it-yourself bio” was not exactly straightforward.

Strange Culture

My first impressions and thoughts regarding my initial encounters with this subject was awe and interest. I had rarely considered that science and art is an up and coming field and its own industry. I had heard of images taken in lab being made into paintings and show pieces and even in my own laboratory that I volunteer in, many of the pictures in the hallways are pieces of art of cells or images related to the research study. I was even forwarded an email invitation by the David Geffen School of Medicine to submit pieces to The Beat, DGSOM's journal of arts and literature. I did not realize until the first class meeting that it is more than just a hobby and more than just a coincidence that certain people have passions for both science and art, bringing the two together. It is a very interesting and eye-opening field that many people have been involved with for many years.

Photo Credit: Shankar Iyer; Thao Nguyen Lab, UCLA. This is a photo of neonatal rat ventricular myocytes that an undergraduate in my lab took.

Photo Credit: Minu Madhvani, Shankar Iyer, Himani Madnawat; Thao Nguyen Lab, UCLA. This is a photo of a myocyte immunostain that I mostly performed by myself for the first time to test an antibody. I thought this looked interesting in relation to how I prepared the slide for imaging.

Photo Credit: Unknown; this is a picture of an micrograph of heart cell membranes that is in the hallway on the wall just outside the lab I volunteer. I thought it was pretty cool.

When discovering the film Strange Culture, I did not realize that biotech+art is a significant field that it has and still continues to garner government concern in certain areas such as bioterrorism. It also is a bit disappointing as this field is very innovative and beautiful can be manipulated and viewed as somewhat of a threat. Art in general provides a medium for expression, and it should be no surprise that such lack of limitations and freedom of expression can trigger controversial responses to certain works. Biotech+art pieces can generate and make strong statements, which can build much interest towards the work as it is the subject of discussion, but can simultaneously hurt whatever the piece is trying to represent. Nevertheless, it was interesting to learn that this field, although fairly new, has been around long enough to be on the government’s radar.

I am most excited to learn more about biotech+art and its application to food. I had previously taken a class discussing food and health on a global perspective and it will be interesting how food, especially genetically modified organisms (GMOs) play into art. In addition, food is a very important part of life and existence, making it even more intriguing. I am very excited about this class not only because it bridges two of my passions, but it also connects the two fields of science and art in a meaningful manner. Often times, art and science remain separate but to see the two come together and create works that are meaningful and relevant to everyone is remarkable

References:

  • "Art in a Time of Terror: Acclaimed Art Professor Steve Kurtz on How He Became a "Bioterrorism" Suspect After His Wife Died in Her Sleep." Democracy Now!  16 June 2008. <http://www.democracynow.org/2008/6/16/art_in_a_time_of_terror>.
  • "Bio Art & Design Awards." Bio Art Design Awards.  <http://www.badaward.nl/>.
  • "BioArt: Is It Art? Is It Science? Is It the Future?" Mashable. <http://mashable.com/2013/10/29/cutpastegrow-bioart/>.
  • "Bioartsociety." Bioartsociety. The Finnish Society of Bioart, <http://bioartsociety.fi/>.
  • "FASEB About FASEB Scientific Contests BioArt About BioArt." FASEB About FASEB Scientific Contests BioArt About BioArt.  <http://www.faseb.org/About-FASEB/Scientific-Contests/BioArt/About-BioArt.aspx>.
  • Ghose, By Tia. "Bio-Art: 3D-Printed Faces Reconstructed from Stray DNA." LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 16 Mar. 2015.  <http://www.livescience.com/50146-art-genetic-data-privacy.html>.
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