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!


Bijoutery said...

awesome interview!

betsy said...

I'm a biology student and I really love how you combine art + science! You has been an inspiration for me!


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