Friday, April 23, 2010

Happy Earth Day from the MSOE Team!

While most places will be holding Earth Day celebrations this weekend (though technically Earth Day is April 22nd), we thought we'd share some eco-friendly tips from the team, as well as some eco-friendly items!

* Use felted dryer balls to aggitate in the clothes dryer to speed up drying; this uses less energy, and you can avoid fabric softener!
* Use a door snake to avoid drafts!
* Dress warmly during cold weather, instead of turning up the heat!
* Make sure your home is well insulated - this helps not only during winter months, but summer as well!
* Use alternative transportation such as walking, biking, or public transit.
* Carpooling is another great way to save money as well as lower your carbon footprint - many cities now have websites set up where carpoolers can find one another to set up car sharing!
* Buy local, especially food. If everyone ate at least one meal a week using only locally sourced food, we'd save thousands of gallons of oil a year!
* Use a surge protector/power bar for appliances, it not only provides surge protection in case of lightening, but you can easily switch off everything when you go out, to avoid the power eaten even in idle state.
* Use tote bags when shopping, and recycle those plastic bags (most grocery stores have recycling bins you can drop them off in!)
* There are many alternatives to commercially available household cleaners, such as vinegar and borax, that are eco-friendly. Check out new lines of eco-friendly commercial cleaners that are becoming more available.

And check out these great handmade, eco-friendly team items in our Earth Day treasury on Etsy!

You can visit the treasury, click and comment at

Happy Earth Day! And remember to celebrate it year round!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Profile of a Mad Scientist: buffalonerdproject

The Mad Scientists of Etsy present the fourth Mad Scientist Profile. Who are these people who both love science and love to create? What does science mean to them? How do they make the things they do? Well, we're going to tell you!

As part of our continuing series, Julie D'Arcy interviewed Lisa Hufnagel, a microbiologist who spends her spare time sewing quirky, upcycled, science-related clothing and accessories. Her shop, Buffalo Nerd Project, is where her love of science meets her urge to create.

Tell me about your chosen field of science. Why that one over other branches of science?

My chosen field of science is biology. My interests within the field are vast; my original interest in biology was sparked by prions (specifically bovine spongiform encephalopathy). I have never actually worked with prions but they remain my first biological love. I earned my Master’s Degree working with bacteriophages, and I followed that with some time spent in a genetics lab doing microarrays. I finally ended up in my current lab, a microbiology lab, where I am working on a project that fascinates me. I love biology because it's very hands-on and more concrete for me than some of the other sciences.

Is there a second favorite in science, something you found really interesting but didn’t want to do it for a living?

I am in love with the idea of physics, but I notoriously suck at it. I suffered through Physics 101 and 102, failed at reading "The Elegant Universe" and probably couldn't find my way out of a frictionless hole (I mean, that would be tough, right?), but I am absolutely fascinated by everything about physics and people that understand it.

Describe your creative process. How do you come up with some of those ideas you have?

I'm one of those people that buys fabric with no preconceived notion of what it will be and then builds around what I have. I do the same thing when I cook. I don't usually know where my ideas come from, it's like one minute they're not there and whoops, there's an idea. Sometimes I think they come from my weird sense of humor.

What’s your favorite thing that you’ve ever created?

One year for Halloween I made a dinosaur suit out of a pair of coveralls and some felt. I absolutely loved how it came out, and it had the added bonus of not being the typical "scantily-clad-girl" Halloween costume (although the number of people tugging on my tail got a little annoying after awhile). The dino suit was also a semi-finalist in Etsy's Halloween costume contest one year, so that was pretty sweet.

How does your art affect your science?

I have been known to communicate with my labmates through cartoons. I once did experiments for a postdoc who was always away from his desk when I came to discuss my latest results, so I would draw some ridiculous picture, like me wearing a mouse suit or something, with text hinting at what I had achieved that day. I kind of miss communicating via cartoons.

If you could create any project you wanted, regardless of complexity, abstractness, cost of raw materials, or even total lack of usefulness, what would it be?

I think I would buy a beautiful old house in Buffalo and completely renovate it to my tastes. Either that or I would create some kind of huge Chihuly-inspired chandelier that would most certainly hang ceiling to floor in my apartment (but would look amazing in my beautiful old house once it was renovated).

Lightning Round!

Google, Wikipedia, or YouTube? GoogleTotally Wikipedia
Science, or Nature? NatureScience
Virus or bacteria? bacteriaBacteria
Igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary (rock, that is)? sedimentary/igneous tieMetamophic
Flannel or poplin? flannelFlannel
Love or money? LOVELove
Flavor? chocolateMaple
Color? green, grey and blueTeal blue
Abstract concept? Hope, and also π (pi)1/∞
Dimension? Fourth (Dimensional Transition, the song by MGMT)Second

Check out Lisa's Buffalo Nerd Project on Etsy!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Profile of a Mad Scientist: jvdarcy

The Mad Scientists of Etsy present the third the Mad Scientist Profile. Who are these people who both love science and love to create? What does science mean to them? How do they make the things they do? Well, we're going to tell you!

Today, buffalonerdproject interviews jvdarcy

buffalonerdproject: Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing team member and fellow science nerd Julie D'Arcy. In addition to having a Biochemistry Ph.D. from Wake Forest University, she also creates lovely drawings for her shop. When her art is not keeping her busy, she has her family (husband, three teenagers, and three dogs) to keep her moving as well as other activities (player agent for the local Little League Baseball organization, part-time editor/proofreader). In the midst of all this bustle, Julie took some time to answer questions about her art and her science.

How did you get involved in science? What field of science are you most interested in?

jvdarcy: When I entered High School, I was pretty much ready to drop out and get a job as soon as I was old enough because I had no interest and seemingly no aptitude for school. Then my very first class in my freshman year, Earth Science, changed all that. I had a really great teacher who made me want to learn and got me interested in science. A couple years later, I had a really great Chemistry teacher, and that was all she wrote. I decided that Chemistry was my science. Once I got to college and started looking at grad schools, I decided that biochemistry research looked at the coolest stuff and most of the other branches of chemistry looked really boring and had way too much math for my taste.

buffalonerdproject: How did you get involved in the arts?

jvdarcy: My Mom is an artist, my Dad is a self-proclaimed 'failed cartoonist' (who became a writer instead) my brother is a great photographer (who can draw, too), so it's really in my blood. I've always had a vivid imagination, have always drawn, painted, done lots of other creative stuff. Everyone else seemed to get to that age where they decided they couldn't draw, but I never did. I kind of put the artist side of me on the back burner for a while in college, but by graduate school, that side of me came back and wanted out with an angry vengeance. I took some adult community classes in all sorts of things, like life drawing, jewelry making, watercolor, and really went through a metamorphosis, where I finally decided that I was really pretty talented and should probably give this art thing the respect it was due.

buffalonerdproject: How does science affect your art?

jvdarcy: I think my scientific background helps give my artistic process some well needed structure, without it I'd never get any artwork done. Also, being a chemist, I'm fascinated by the molecular processes going on in certain media, how you can manipulate the chemistry of substances to create etchings, polymer clay sculpture, silverpoint drawings. Lately, I've been exploring the chemistry of metal point drawing (pure metal wire, usually silver or copper, used to draw on a gessoed surface) to see if there are some cool chemical techniques I can use to oxidize the metal in the drawing and add cool effects. No success just yet—mostly I've found lots of ways to not do it.

buffalonerdproject: What are your favorite procedures in both science and art?

jvdarcy: I've always liked microscopy, more as art than science, because it is often hard to quantify as real science. In grad school I got to work with a world class electron microscopy facility, where I learned a lot about both the science and the art. In art, I love to draw. It frustrates me that painters get so much credit for having used a brush and put their picture on canvas, where as a drawing, no matter how elaborate, often gets called a 'sketch'. My drawings are much less about lines and more about shades, shapes and creating depth. That tendency aside, I've been getting a real kick lately out of drawing in ink—lots of hatched lines and bold, black outlines.

buffalonerdproject: What was the title of your Ph.D. dissertation?

jvdarcy: *runs to the other room to brush the dust off it and read it* Ahem… "Use of an In Vitro Model to Investigate Two Mechanisms of the Thrombolytic Resistance of a Platelet-Rich Thrombus"

buffalonerdproject: What is your favorite thing that you've ever created?

jvdarcy: I guess if I had to name one thing as a favorite, it'd be this clock I made when I was in graduate school. It looked like the inside of an egg that had cracked in half, with a clock inside of it. I made a paper mache form on the inside of a round bowl, then sawed a pattern on the edges to make it look like half of an eggshell. On the inside, I painted the yolk, drilled a hole in the middle, curved some clock handles around in the shape of the inside, and (best part) dissolved Styrofoam in acetone (in the fume hood, of course) and made a long drip of egg white coming off of it. That last bit was, oddly, my graduate advisor's idea, and it worked perfectly and looked just like a big glop of raw egg white. I sold the clock to someone who asked me about it, only charged her $35 for it, and now I can't even find the pictures of it. I've thought of making another clock like it ever since. It was a good lesson in pricing—charge enough that it won't break your heart to see it go.

buffalonerdproject: Are you a nerd?

jvdarcy: Totally. Well, maybe. I used to be, I guess, but now cool people actually talk to me, I married the High School football star (not my High School, that guy was a douche, my football star is also brilliant and talented), I dress pretty nicely, some (like my husband) would even say I'm moderately hot! I still totally dig old episodes of the X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I still think science is immensely cool, even if I'm only watching it on the Discovery Channel.

buffalonerdproject: If someone set you loose in a laboratory and said "use the stuff in here to make something crafty," what would you make and how? In addition to having access to lab gear, you can also use glue, tape, string, scissors, and feathers.

jvdarcy: After writing the answer to the question above and thinking about it, I guess I'd probably make another Egg Clock! There's definitely lots of useless paper, I'd have to find some starchy something from the chemicals rack to mix with the glue to make my mache glop, the egg yolk I could make out of yellow biohazard tape (I could cut around the red stuff), every lab has a clock that could be cannibalized in the name of art, and there's always one too many Styrofoam shipping boxes from that pack rat in the lab who just knows she'll need it one of these days. The feathers would add a nice touch, don't you think?

Check out Julie's Easily Distracted by Julie D'Arcy etsy shop, and her flickr photo stream. You can find her on Facebook or become a fan of her shop as well as follow her on twitter.
All images care of jvdarcy


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