If you ask a biologist why he or she chose biology as a career, I’ll bet most will cite a deep feeling of wonder and appreciation for the beauty and complexity of the natural world. But that feeling is not so easy to find in the lab, where we try to be objective and logical (and efficient). How we can initially turn to biology for such emotional, unscientific reasons, and then neglect them afterward, is a puzzling thing. We may never have tried to formally articulate our wonder. We may enjoy the richness and motivation it brings to our work, without needing any articulation. Even so, since art is all about capturing inarticulate truths and inspiring wonder, art may have something practical to offer biologists – a way to recapture that original feeling of wonder and surprise that brought us here. This blog is intended to evoke that feeling.
A biologist-artist with an excruciatingly abbreviated attention span, I ask many annoying questions, and dabble in pretty much everything except music and math.
On some inarticulate level, I meant to become a Victorian-style naturalist with an extensive library of classics, who sits in the sun drawing insects and leaves, and perhaps writing the occasional sonnet. Unfortunately, I’m also a reductionist with the urge to dissect cellular mechanisms down to genes and proteins. I somehow didn’t realize until well into my PhD that molecular geneticists work not in bucolic fields or quiet libraries with leather armchairs, but in sterile labs with peculiar odors. They don’t usually draw, and sonnets are right out. Oops.
In due time, I finished my PhD. I taught college. I started a blog. I moved to DC to do science policy. And then I went to law school – a decision that, in addition to being a total non sequitur, left very little time for blogging, much less sitting in the sun drawing insects.
When I do have time, bioephemera is my outlet for musings and observations about pretty much everything, but especially the intersection of art and science. We’ll always circle back to biology, but the trajectory will be roundabout, cephalopods and medievalists lurk in the undergrowth, and you should probably pack a picnic lunch.
Jessica Palmer can be reached at bioephemera (at) gmail dot com