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.


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One Reply to “Connecting Design and Science”

  1. Shay, I love your analogy of the parts of the brain to describe the entwinement of academic disciplines. Being the “liaison,” like you said, is so important in seeing a project through to fruition with the most expertise in accuracy. Well said! I look forward to seeing where this degree takes you!

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