Science is under siege — from budget cuts, media sensationalism, and public apathy. Nearly half of AAAS scientists in a 2014 poll believe now is “a bad time for science” despite the fact that science plays a more important role in our lives than ever before.
We intend to change all that.
Part of the problem is that scientific research can be complex, overwhelming and even boring when presented with dense technical jargon-filled reports. By shining a light on basic research through the visual arts, The Leading Strand inspires curiosity, wonder and a deeper appreciation of what science offers the world.
What We're Doing
We will pair designers with scientists to co-create visually compelling and technically accurate works of art. The designs from our first cohort will be unveiled at an exhibit at the Pratt Institute in Chelsea on July 13th, 2016.
In our first cohort, we've paired five leading neuroscientists with five amazing designers, each working together to shine a light on the nuance and rigor of their research.
ONE Yaakov Stern (Professor at Columbia Medical Center) x Alisa Alferova (motion designer)
They are creating a motion piece using visual metaphor to illuminate why memory failure happens in aging adults. You'll also get to tinker with a version of the memory test used in the lab!
TWO Julia Basso (Postdoc at Suzuki Lab, NYU) x Kelsey Hunter (product designer)
They are creating a chat bot, Exley the exercise bot, that tests, informs and tracks your mood, movement and general well being as it relates to exercise and cognition.
THREE Dhananjay Bambah-Mukku (Postdoc at Dulac Lab, Harvard) x Vicky Du (independent filmmaker)
They are creating a short film that profiles a young neuroscientist at Harvard that teases apart the philosophical implications of his research on modern society, and explores his personal motivations and understanding of the world around him that drive him to pursue these questions.
FOUR Sam McKenzie (Postdoc at Buzsáki lab, NYU) x Brian Foo (programmer/artist)
They are creating a continuously evolving song that listens to, remembers, and interprets the sounds of its environment that will act as a musical metaphor for how memory may work in the human brain.
FIVE Andrew Bogaard (MD/PhD candidate at Fetz Lab, University of Washington) x Elanie Khuu (industrial designer)
They are using participatory simple machines to convey the complexity of how neurons communicate and give rise to movement.
Each of these scientists is studying an important area of the neuroscience, from the effects of exercise on learning and cognition, to how neurons give rise to movement.
The planned works range from a short film, to an exercise chatbot, to a motion graphic piece, and will be on exhibit starting July 13th at the Pratt Institute in NYC through July 18th. From there, the exhibit will seek a long-term home or find an opportunity to be a traveling exhibit.
I will be giving a TED Talk at TED's SoHo headquarters on July 12th about The Leading Strand and the importance of supporting and celebrating basic science. My presentation will highlight some of the amazing work coming out of our first cohort of collaborators and why we all need to care about basic research.
Each team kicked off their collaboration in mid-April and many have working prototypes of their pieces already. All of the projects will be complete by the time of the exhibit on July 13th.
Our work was covered by Quartz in an article called: A match-making service pairs neuroscientists with designers to explain scientific breakthroughs. An excerpt below:
"Increasing the amount of good science within good design is critical at a time when brands tempt consumers with catchphrases like “scientifically-proven” or “designer-made.” Just as Renaissance scientist-artists drew on both sides of the brain to come up with incredible new ideas, so might collaborations between these two fields help produce breakthroughs worthy of the hype around them, today."
The Leading Strand was founded by me, Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya. I am currently in the first-ever class of TED Residents and an art director at Primacy, a design agency with offices in Boston, Connecticut, and New York City. I grew up in Atlanta, earned a degree in Neuroscience from Columbia University and worked several years in Professor Yaakov Stern's lab at Columbia Medical Center's Taub Institute for Alzheimer's Disease and the Aging Brain before getting my MFA in design from Pratt Institute.
I am a huge believer in interdisciplinary approaches: My graduate thesis focused on merging lean startup principles with traditional design thinking. My scientific background informs my work as a designer and bringing these two worlds together is something I'm really passionate about.
We've developed a number of unique items to share with our supporters as part of this campaign.
First off, we're offering tickets to the opening night of The Leading Strand exhibit on Wednesday July 13th. That first night will open only to Kickstarter ticket holders — all remaining nights (14-17) the exhibit will be free to the public.
Second, we've put together some physical rewards, including a set of six two-sided note cards that feature quotes from leading scientists: Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Linus Pauling, Rosalind Franklin, Louis Pasteur, and Lise Meitner.
Third, we've produced some handsome notebooks with The Leading Strand Branding.
Fourth, we're organizing a VIP reception for our extra generous backers, allowing them an opportunity to connect with the designers and scientists behind the exhibit in an intimate setting, with complimentary snacks and refreshments.
Finally, we're offering a select group of backers some extraordinary and one-of-a-kind gifts from a visit to the TED offices to a full-blown workshop at your company.
The Leading Strand has been entirely self-funded up to this point. The TED Residency provides a place to work and a community, but no financial support. I've been paying for all the project expenses out-of-pocket, including materials, equipment, travel, contractors, and more.
The $9,000 we raise via our campaign will go towards:
- Project Expenses: raw materials, equipment, travel, contractors (e.g. camera crew, software developers)
- Exhibit Expenses: equipment rental including big screen displays, mics, electronics. Also, refreshments, signage
- Designer Stipend: each of the five designers is receiving a very modest stipend for the countless hours they've dedicated to the project
- Reward Expenses: printing and shipping of the scientist note cards and branded notebooks
- Credit Card and Kickstarter fees: Like every project on this site, roughly 8-9% of our total funds will go to Kickstarter and CC fees
Ultimately, $9,000 only covers the bare essentials for this project. If we were to raise more than $9,000 we would be able to upgrade exhibit equipment rentals. Any additional funding beyond this project's expenses would go towards putting together and onboarding our next cohort of collaborators and their project expenses. I will not personally receive any financial compensation for this project.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about The Leading Strand and our efforts to shine a light on the incredible things that science can enable. We'd really appreciate your support to make our project a reality.
Audio Credit for the video: "Life of Riley" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
Risks and challenges
This is happening. By the time this campaign ends (July 8th), we'll be less than a week away from the exhibit and TED talk, and the designers will have already created and validated prototypes of their designs and will be ready for installation.
The only things we'd consider a challenge to completion would be if Pratt were to withdraw the space at the last minute, or one of our designers or scientists had to drop out unexpectedly. That could impact the project negatively, but overall, we don't foresee any major hurdles to achieving our goals with this project.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)