Connecting Design and Science

One problem in engineering is a disconnect between the design aesthetics of technology that not only help determine whether something is physically viable but also contributes to ease of user interface, and the mechanical engineers and scientists who speak an almost entirely different language. I believe the disconnect between the arts and sciences have been polarized in society though the educational system, in that often we are taught that one is either in one or the other. Scientific discovery comes from the artistic spirit and the artist would be significantly limited without their carefully crafted materials.

The cerebral hemispheres and the corpus collosum are much like art, science, and the liaison between them. The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body as well as logical thought, organization, and mathematics while the right controls the opposite side and contributes creative thinking, emotion, and instincts. But where truly innovative ideas come from is the communication between the two. The corpus collosum, like interdisciplinarity, opens the channel between worlds and allows application of both objective and subjective thinking. There are tons of ways to represent and apply this skill, and in this degree plan I will talk about my primary goal as an interdisciplinarian.

I have talked to many people in my ideal work field, engineering, and they have all said their jobs require use of vastly different skills. What I found out is that every step to creating or fixing something, for someone, for society, for the world, is a multi-faceted process involving many people, often with language, cultural, religious, and educational barriers. So what I want to do is be able to know enough about each field to traverse some of these barriers.

Imagine this: Your engineering company wants to build a water purification system for use in under developed countries. There is a long line of people necessary to make this a successful venture. There are the graphic designers that draw a blueprint in 2D or with computer aided design software that need to collaborate with the industrial engineers about the specific inner workings of this machine. Parts are drawn up and ordered from product manufacturers most likely from China, electrical and mechanical engineers put the system together and make sure it works. To get the product anywhere, it needs marketability, to be user friendly, and have a minimal environmental impact. My ideal job is to the fully entwined in this process – being the liaison between fields, understanding and re-explaining design issues to the engineers, or how to rework an aesthetic feature into a feasible mechanism.

The classes I am taking are primarily art and science with math and a little bit of psychology. PS3600: Behavioral Neuroscience explores the anatomy of the brain and how it controls each bodily function. A basic understanding of neuroanatomy and physiology will give me a well-rounded knowledge base. PS3140: Statistics in Psychology is an incredibly helpful class that is teaching me about unbiased, critical data collection, interpretation, and communication. These are essential skills for every subject dedicated to sharing information effectively. BI1120: Biological Science II will be a continuation of the biological sciences sequence. These classes cover experiments in a lab setting, the technical language of biology, and keeping an organized, professional lab notebook. Being well read in biological and other scientific aspects will be helpful in effectively communicating results in non-technical language. BI3050: Biotechnology will teach me about technical writing and a basic understanding of some complicated technology. MA2140: Pre-calculus will prepare me for calculus. MA2490: Applied Calculus I covers the application of calculus in various disciplines. This calculus sequence is algebra based, which is the most widely used form of math in scientific and engineering fields. PH2140: Physics II will be my continuation of the physics sequence.  AR1120: Drawing Ideas, Interior, Land teaches sketching and 2D work on paper. AR1065: Foundations of Sculpture: Form 3D is the building block to 3D design and its practical applications. AR3160: Sculpture: Objects and Ideas explores aesthetic interpretations of forms. AR3060: Sculpture: Representing the body explores various sculpting material in organic forms. AR3940: Advanced Multidisciplinary Studies focuses on idea development and interactions with people across artistic disciplines.

Going to college for one degree lacks the input of other fields that could provide a valuable perspective. I have seen art students recoil at simple math like a vampire in the sun, a graphic design major begrudgingly attend an environmental geography class purely because she has to (as though the two do not correlate). But everything correlates. A study from Michigan State found that Nobel Laureates, through autobiographies, biographies, and obituaries between 1901 and 2005 were significantly more likely to have had a hobby in the arts and crafts than non-Nobel Laureates. The thought here is that instead of exercising just a few skills, those with interests in multiple fields have a higher ability to apply creative solutions to difficult problems.

Ancient scientists and astronomers like Galileo were first and primarily philosophers, calling their research “natural philosophy.” These fields started with the compulsively curious and were proliferated by the scientifically creative.  In order to have a well-rounded view of the world, one must contain the ability to learn more than one skill. Life demands more than one skill to make change. Life demands a constantly unsatisfied quest for information and the need to keep improving.


Interdisciplinarity in Sculpture and Statistics in Society

I am currently taking a sculpture class that is touching on everything I hope to be working with. This class is teaching me the elements of design and has given me an entirely new perspective on functional aesthetics. The project I am currently working on is one of the biggest works I’ve done so far. I have been working with measurements of circumference, power tools, shrink wrap, and I have to make sure it’s pretty. This process has been so far part math and part trial and error – making scale drawings and translating them into life size was a learning curve I (and many people in the class) had to grasp. The strips of wood are of varying thicknesses, so some of the thicker pieces would snap if bent too far. Assembling rings into the cohesive pattern we’ve drawn out on such a large scale takes consistent and accurate measurements.

This project is leaving me a little bit overwhelmed at times. Doing math on a theoretical object and trying to translate it to this limiting medium leaves a lot of room for error. Many of which I’ve bravely run into. Unfortunately this caused a tremendous waste of time and materials. These materials are cheap and reusable so the impact on this particular project is not entirely detrimental, but in delicate and high priced field I plan on going into, this kind of amateur carelessness is not acceptable. Time is also a very valuable commodity and using more time to calculate and plan a procedure is arguably more efficient than spending time with trial and error.



Statistics in psychology has given me such a vast lexicon of understanding in the field of scientific experimentation and data analysis. The course spells out that quantifiable and consistently replicable data is the most viable means of drawing conclusions about our world, society, the universe, and any question that begs answering. We can’t know anything for certain. This class also teaches the necessity of questioning every piece of information being given to you. Being critical and independent is a defense against ignorance and manipulation.

Bell 2017

Bell produces a valid point in saying the goodness of art is determined immediately and innately within the viewer. I believe art is so subjective, and that brain chemistry forbids us to view something exactly the same way as someone else. The point of abstract art is not what it is or what the artist is trying to make it represent. Nonrepresentational art is about invoking a feeling unique to each viewer. Value of abstract are is determined by an unidentifiable force within one’s self – the same sense that allows us to know something that is red, is red.

Student Revolutionizes Solution to Water Crisis in India

Times of India’s Sangamesh Menasinakai reported on an engineering student at Angadi Institute f Technology and Management, Belagavi. Niranjan Karagi developed a water purifier that fits inside any bottle and filters contaminants with activated carbon, mesh, and cotton. This product was designed out of necessity – Karagi saw his friends and family drinking bacteria infested water because that was all they had to drink. In this interview, Karagi stated: “Contaminated drinking water can cause anything from mild gastrointestinal distress to serious bacterial diseases. Then I felt the need to make the lives of these children better.” With the help of the Leaders Accelerating Development, a foundation dedicated to helping develop technology in the third world, the student got the necessary funding and has sold thousands since its market release in 2016 for 20 rupees each. He is employing his friends and colleagues as market interns and has himself become the tycoon of this portable, inexpensive water purification industry that is also highly eco-friendly and humanitarian.

Having a great idea is great, but it doesn’t mean much without necessity, marketability, and financial support. Without Karagi’s acumen for business, his invention might not have had the success is has now.

3D Design

3D design skills involve the ability to conceptualize an idea in three dimensions. Architects, sculptors, engineers, scientists, etc. use physical materials or graphic design programs to display an idea. 3D design is a means through which ideas are expressed as physical or conceptual models.  This discipline balances the aspects of form and function to create a user friendly, aesthetically appealing object that fulfills its intended function.

There is a pretty awesome and thorough design program at PSU, using various CAD programs, welding, woodworking, clay, all the while exploring the theory and history of aesthetic design. The combination of 3D design and mathematics creates a well-rounded set of skills that can apply to many aspects of sciences and arts.  Overlapping of these subjects is what creates buildings that are both stable and beautiful, inventions that provide a user friendly improvement on society and the world, streamline, displacement, suspension, weight distribution in art.

I found a very interesting explanation of 3D design in this journal.


3D design is so versatile and a tremendously useful tool for planning, guiding, and creating. Architectural design is so variant and differs so much depending on culture, time period, and access to tools. Even in contemporary buildings, the typical structure and materials differ greatly.


National Society of Professional Engineers

Content and methods



Interview with Dr. Machnik 2/20/17

Shay Vogel

Interview with Dr. Machnik


Interview with a Physicist


A large aspect of my field of study is physics based. Dr. Dennis Machnik is the only physics professor on campus and was kind enough to tell me about his educational and professional history. When I asked him what his professional career looked like he had this to say, “Physics is effectively applied math, and engineering is applied physics. Most engineering involves a lot of math. My field is astrophysics, but it’s still physics and still requires a lot of math. My Ph.D. is in radio astrophysics using radio telescopes to observe clouds of gas dust in space, pressure, density, temperature and so forth. Because if enough gas has enough density at a certain temperature, it will collapse and become a star and planets. That was pretty much what I was into – star formations.”

Dr. Machnik told me after is two years of post-doctoral research in 1981 he began teaching and hasn’t stopped since. He said people typically pair teaching with their own research, but he chooses to participate in community outreach programs. Machnik takes the portable planetarium, visits children in the community and neighboring disctricts and teaches them about space. Dr. Machnik has remained specialized and in a teaching position, and his advice was to first decide how much math I feel the need to take. He told me the design field has a spectrum between maths and arts and I should determine where on that spectrum I will be most suited.

Machnik recommended I take graphic design courses and accompanying maths and the physics based calculus class offered here.

We ended up talking for about an hour and a half after the interview about Klein bottles, space clouds, quantum mechanics, black holes, and simple math in economics, the heat emitted from cooling concrete in the Hoover Dam, how stars form and die, the fourth dimension, and tricks with optics. Talking to this man was both fascinating, fun and as he went off to class he kindly offered any help he could provide – telling me I’m welcome to come talk any time.

Gregorian, Watters, and Rikard: The Interdisciplinarian

When I started college I was enrolled in the psychology program. I noticed over the years I was interacting with the same students, professors, and subject matter. Gregorian’s Colleges Must Reconstruct the Unity of Knowledge is a conversation about what college is and it’s role in a person’s learning and perspective. Gregorian says this about colleges currently, “Higher education has atomized knowledge by dividing it into disciplines, subdisciplines, and sub-subdisciplines — breaking it up into smaller and smaller unconnected fragments of academic specialization…”  I think it makes more sense and is more of an asset to be well versed in a variety of skills rather than focusing on one thing.

When versatility is the nature of the interdisciplinary program, embracing new technology in to the learning seems like a necessity. In The Web We Need to Give Students, by Audrey Watters, she discusses the importance and many benefits of embracing the advantages of technology in learning. “Having one’s own domain means that students have much more say over what they present to the world, in terms of their public profiles, professional portfolios, and digital identities.Students have control over the look and feel of their own sites, including what’s shared publicly.” Having one’s own website is a powerful tool and will be a boon in many potential professional interactions.