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


Amanda said...

GREAT interview! love the thesis title questions! :D

Julie D'Arcy said...

Thanks Amanda! We had a pretty good time interviewing each other! Personally, I thought the title to my thesis was about as dry, convoluted and boring as it gets, but my advisor wanted me to be all accurate and stuff...


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