Worming into memories
Shirty Science project
Shirty Science is a cross-disciplinary collaboration project that brings together artists and scientists to create awesome science shirts. Founded by Madi Hartill-Law in 2016, Shirty Science has worked with over one hundred scientists and artists facilitating the creation of 60+ unique shirt designs. It enjoys world-wide sales, which are donated to organisations that support diversity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
‘Worming into memories’ represents PhD student Anna McMillen’s study of learning and memory in the model of Caenorhabditis elegans, a species of microscopic worms. Learning is an organism’s ability to acquire new information about the world around them, and acquire memories so they can store that information to act on later. The aim of her research is to understand at a cellular level how brain cells known as neurons communicate differently during learning and memory formation.
My artwork visually represents core elements of Anna’s research – worms, neuronal activity and learning. As in the lab, a UV light illuminates what’s happening inside the brain cells of microscopic worms. I've placed the worms inside a human brain - something we are all familiar with - and, visually connected the UV light with worm-brain activity.
On the right-side, the UV light illuminates a brain that shows worms that are connecting - they are learning or making memories. On the left-side, the brain shows unconnected worms - they are not learning or making memories.
Since Anna's research may apply to other species, I've added dog ears, fish mouths and bird beaks.
You can listen to Anna and I talk about our Shirty Science collaboration on episode #97 of the Avid Research podcast, which tells Australian STEM stories.