Studying The Arts As A STEM Major
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My University Encourages Exploration Of The Arts, Even When You're A STEM Major

Going on this trip not only re-awakened old interests of mine but also created a new-found appreciation and love for other topics like stem cell research and E. coli painting.

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My University Encourages Exploration Of The Arts, Even When You're A STEM Major
Anna Masciandaro

At the beginning of the month, I took a trip to New York City with 23 other girls from my dorm. The whole trip was focused on exploring the connections between the arts and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). This trip was centered around integrating the arts into STEM and how the interactions between all the fields can benefit society and inform on each other, thus turning STEM into STEAM.

Some of the days we spent at Rutgers while the other six days we went to different places around New York that related to different elements of STEAM.

Day 1: Judith Modrak and National Geographic

For our first excursion, we visited Judith Modrak, an NYC-based artist who draws inspiration from psychology and neuroscience. She showed us a sneak peek of some sculptures that were going to be in her next show. After a short lunch break, we went to National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey which immersed us in a realistic ocean environment. It was a good example of how technology and art came together to spread the word about the dire situation our oceans are in and encourage interest in ocean conservation.

Day 2: MoMath and Paula Croxson

Let's face it, math is not a very popular topic, but I have to be honest, the Museum of Math, whose nickname is MoMath, was the most entertaining museum I've ever been to. They had interactive activities that got children (and college students) to care about math and the different concepts. There was a bike that you could go on, logical games, and they had a tessellation wall that you could mess around with. After embracing our inner child, we sat down with Paula Croxson, a neuroscientist, science communicator, and senior manager for Education Programs at Columbia University's Zuckerman Institute. She gave us some tips about public speaking and we all had to give two-minute TED talks.

Day 3: Genspace and Public Art Scavenger Hunt

The only time we ventured down to Brooklyn was for Genspace, a community lab where the public has access to lab equipment that allows them to conduct experiments. There, we got to paint with safe e-coli which was much harder than it sounds given that our "paint" was clear and there really wasn't any way for us to tell where we already painted and where we didn't. If you look up some of the stuff that people have done online it's really incredible and a great example of the interaction between art and science. After Genspace, we were let loose in the city on a public art scavenger hunt. All we had to do was roam around and take a selfie with at least three works of public art. We found some of ours in a subway station, Columbus Circle and at the zoo.

Day 4: New York Hall of Science and the Cooper Hewitt

The New York Hall of Science was really cool because we got to see the "Infinite Potentials" exhibit which featured images of the possibilities of stem cell research. The exhibit was also curated by our incredible teacher, Julia Buntaine, and Marnie Benney. If you just walked into the exhibit and looked at the images but didn't read any of the plaques, you would still be able to appreciate the beauty of the images. My favorite one was by Dana Simmons which showed a cerebellar Purkinje neuron, a neuron that assists in controlling motor functions and balance. As for the Cooper Hewitt, we were unable to go due to the government shut down, so we just had a free afternoon in which I caught up on some rest at the hotel.

Day 5: BioBus and the MET

This was, by far, one of the most interesting days in NYC. We traveled uptown to visit the BioBus, a portable and easily accessible classroom that aims to encourage scientific exploration in younger kids. While we didn't actually get to go on the bus, we did visit a stationary classroom where we dissected cows eyes (I'll spare you the details and the photos). After that, we headed back downtown to visit the MET Costume Institute. I've been to the MET more times than I can count, but this time, we got a behind the scenes look into how they preserve fashion garments. I personally love fashion (even if I don't dress like it). I grew up watching project runway and dreaming of being a fashion designer, so visiting the costume institute had a special place in my heart.

Day 6: Guggenheim and the American Museum of Natural History

I've been to the Guggenheim before, but most of the time I don't like a lot of the exhibits that they put on, except for the Hilma af Klint. I'm not really sure what it was about that specific exhibit that I really loved but it was definitely more intriguing than what I've seen in the past. After the Guggenheim, we traversed Central Park to get to the American Museum of Natural History to watch Dark Universe. Once we sat down, I realized that I saw the show before and proceeded to zone out (or fall asleep), but I also realized that it was a good example of how technology and art can interact to educate people about the universe.

Not only was this trip an eye-opening experience that re-awakened old interests of mine and created a new-found appreciation and love for other topics, but it also allowed me to become closer with some of the girls in my dorm and form a smaller community within many of the other communities I'm involved in.

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