A window into Research

In my previous post I discussed how Scientific meetings/conferences can be viewed as a Window into Research. Keeping up with the light summertime blog post theme, I wanted to present another interoperation for Window into Research, an “Arts & Science” project I have been working on in the last year.

Almost a year ago our lab moved to its new location in the newly renovated Richards Building. The building, designed by the famous architect Louis Kahn, is a designated National Historic Landmark and (as we found out) a constant tourist attraction. Because it’s a historical site we were not allowed to modify the walls – but no one said anything about the windows….. And so, shortly after we moved in, we turned the big windows into another whiteboard for the lab. The colorful result brought further attention (we recently had the dean visit with donors, admiring our new art form…;) and even Michael Schade, the architect responsible for the renovation, was pleasantly surprised by it (I told him that’s what happens if you let people into your plans…;)

At some point I decided to turn the lab’s corner window into my own mini “Arts & Science” project: A view into our lab’s research/daily life via stills of the window. The original idea was to constantly capture the window area across times of the day/week/month/year. While I failed to systematically do that (for now…), I did manage to collect quite a few images through the year which I turned into the clip below. I plan to keep updating this as the story of our lab’s research unfolds….

A few things worth noting:

  1. The theme song was deliberately chosen. First, it’s a nice song by Mark Knopfler. Second, its name is “Sailing to Philadelphia” matches well the lab’s location at UPenn. But the third reason is maybe the most intriguing one: It revolves around Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon. Many people know about their contribution: Mapping the Mason-Dixon line between Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. This line later became famous as the border between the South and the North, thus representing much more than just a line. But what people do not know is that Mason and Dixon were English Scientists (astronomers, cartographers) that came to America to help map the then uncharted territories of the colonies with their new tools/methods. A few centuries after Mason & Dixon we too are in Philadelphia, mapping uncharted territories but in Genomics and Genetics….
  2. The clip gives a biased view of our research as it depicts more frequently the people actually sitting besides the window (Jordi, Anu). Other people have the misfortune of using plain whiteboards…..
  3. Finally, based on the information contained in the clip:
    1. Can you tell what type of data/problems we commonly work on? (hint: molecules like DNA, but cooler, and a process that rhymes with “rhyming”  😉
    2. Can you guess what is our family pet??


And now, for the actual clip… Enjoy!


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