The subject matter—which presents plant and animal cells during different cell processes—resembles neon signs more than nature.
The students obtained these images using the College’s cell biology imaging facility which includes seven compound fluorescence microscopes, computer capture software, and an National Science Foundation-funded confocal microscope able to capture 3-D images. The images are a result of using fluorescence instead of reflection, as is common in most microscopes.
Kohorn said the idea for the show was based on his appreciation of the beauty of nature.
“In class, I really try to help the students understand the importance of a pleasing image rather than just something for information,” he said.
The students have taken this lesson to heart and expanded their perspective on imaging.
“You definitely have your moments when you just stop thinking about what you’re actually studying and looking for and just think, ‘That’s awesome; that’s a gorgeous picture,’” said Noah Gavil ’14, one of Kohorn’s students.
Part of what the students find amazing is that although the images document ordinary organic processes, they can look incandescent with just a few manipulations.
“It’s always cool when you’re looking under a microscope and start shining UV light at it and seeing what fluoresces,” said Gavil. “Even just a water droplet looks so cool as an individual image.”
Kohorn himself organized the majority of the show. Using the visual arts department’s equipment, he printed and mounted the images.
However, the final selection of images was made collectively by the students.
“There are a lot of pictures that are wonderful, but I can’t show them all,” said Kohorn. “I didn’t want to exclude anyone so [I] represented the whole class as having contributed to the show.”
Kohorn said that this sort of exhibit is not new within the scientific community, but that the art-science form has just now come to Bowdoin.
Last year, there was an exhibit in the Bowdoin College Museum of Art done by Collin Roessler of the Earth and Oceanographic Science Department, that similarly displayed scientific processes in an artistic way, albeit the photos were of glaciers and icebergs rather than cells undergoing mitosis.
“I think it’s good to think outside of your small box. I think it’s good to explore different ways of looking at things,” he said. “Aesthetic is really important.”
This art form can serve as a unique way of documenting scientific work.
“The way you present your data—often how you visualize it—can really be extremely important,” said Gavil. “Even if you’re not doing something where literally the data is a picture—or has a visual arts component—you try to make it into some visual representation.”