Interdisciplinary lab to combine art, science

Emily Passey

A new computer lab devoted to chemistry, biology, and studio art will open in Science Hall this fall. The lab, a dream in the making for several years, was approved in the budget last weekend by the trustees.
Room 128, currently empty, was designed and earmarked specifically for installation of this lab.
The lab will consist of 13 computers – 12 for students and one faculty workspace. It will be used primarily by students in classes in the natural sciences and digital studio arts. The iMac computers will be equipped with highly specialized software for these particular disciplines, designed to meet the specific needs of both students and professors. The lab will initially be open to students enrolled in classes in either area; the possibility of open use is still being decided.
The curious combination of natural sciences and studio art is the result of both divisions needing certain programs and classroom computer use that have so far been unavailable.
The studio art department is shifting focus, eliminating a few ceramics classes and suspending the metals program altogether. In exchange, photography instructors John Shimon and Julie Lindemann will have full-time status and teach new courses in digital photography. The program will also rely on more digital sources, including advanced video and imaging software. For the art department, this lab will be a welcome change from the small Wriston lab and will afford greater teaching opportunities.
The science departments are using the lab to expand opportunities. Over time, an interdisciplinary area in bioinformatics- combining biology, chemistry, and computer science – will practically take over the lab, which will be equipped immediately to meet the needs of future bioinformatics students and professors.
The lab ties the arts and sciences together, something quite typical at Lawrence. David Berk, the director of instructional technology and the man in charge of organizing the lab, hopes that some interdepartmental understanding and collaboration will result from the lab’s use. He envisions chemistry students peering over digital photographers’ shoulders and finding that art is actually kind of cool, and vice versa.
The lab is currently being designed and plans are being ironed out. It will be installed and ready for use in the fall.