Friday, June 18, 2010

Profile of a Mad Scientist: whatnomints

The Mad Scientists of Etsy present the sixth 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, Kate from scientific culture interviewed Sasha from what. nomints? She is quite the interesting lady who crafts up great sciency felt goodies in her home in Lambertville, NJ. She graduated with a degree in Biochemisty and is currently working on medical research. Sasha is an ideal MSOE team member with her quirky sense of humour, fantastic crafting skill, and enthusiasm for chemisty!

How did you get into crafting and what inspired the plunge into selling on Etsy?

I have always been a crafter at heart and would often find myself painting random pictures from magazines or from photos I had taken. During school, when all of my classmates groaned and sighed at the assignment of a visual project, I secretly celebrated and couldn't wait to get myself to a craft store and begin working. Three of my favorite, and most memorable, projects are all science-related: DNA made from styrofoam balls and paint, the human brain sculpted entirely from foam clay, and a large plant cell complete with gel candle wax cytoplasm and modeling clay organelles. Needless to say, I grew up crafting and Etsy is a great way to share my love of this hobby (and science) with others. The "plunge" into selling all started when I couldn't find any stockings I liked for my boyfriend, Jim, and I this past Christmas. Fed up with searching, I purchased a couple yards of fabric and made my own - they came out great! This let to the purchase of more fabric, more stitching and more brainstorming, and the rest is history!

What tickles your fancy in the world of science? Any all time favourite topics or courses?

I LOVE organic chemistry! Everyone warned me about how horrible/ difficult/ impossible it was and to only expect failure, but as soon as I successfully completed my first mechanism, I was hooked! Every exam and problem was just like a puzzle to me and I actually thought they were fun to do. I ended up tutoring for organic chemistry courses when I was an undergrad too, which was a great experience.
I also highly enjoy titrations. I know it's just thought of as a basic chemistry thing, but I always get such satisfaction when I titrate to the perfect light pink endpoint (when using phenolphthalein of course)!

What is your artistic process? What inspired each of your pieces and how do you incorporate science into your work?

The process of creating a piece often comes from being inspired by something I encounter throughout the day. For instance, the first item I made and listed was one of my Tufted Bird ornaments. I was surfing Google and came across a funny picture of a bluebird staring straight into the camera while its picture was being taken. It made me laugh because the bird looked annoyed and had a funny facial expression. It got me to thinking that most birds are portrayed or drawn in profile, so I decided to do something different and make a Tufted Bird looking right at you with some unruly hair for a bit of attitude (to be honest, Jim came up with the idea for the tuft of hair, so I must give credit where credit is due)! Most of my geeky items are inspired by the work I do in the lab, molecules I learned about in class or food-related chemicals we eat and drink. As mentioned before, I am a huge fan of organic chemistry and the molecular structures I embroider on my items reflect that.

If you were granted three craft-related wishes what would they be and why?

1. Always knowing the length of string I will need when I do a particular stitch, I always unravel too much or too little so I'm either left with an awkward length or I am praying that somehow an extra inch or two will magically appear so I can finish without cutting another piece.
2. More room in my tiny apartment for a desk I can work at. Our living room/kitchen/dining room combo (yes, it's all in one room) is always scattered with random bits of floss and pieces of felt and product tags. It's a wonder how I haven't pricked myself with a misplaced needle lying in wait between the couch cushions ...
3. More hours in a day to create/promote/prepare/relax/work/exercise: sigh:: because we all know that 24 is never enough!

And finally, I’m dying to know – how did your etsy user name come about?

My shop name has sort of been a joke in my family for years and it all began when my family and I went out to dinner. When we were finished I promptly got up and immediately went searching the area around the hostess for the after-dinner mints. To my dismay, I discovered that there were none and exclaimed incredulously, "What! No mints!?" It was apparently amusing to have such a small child make this declaration and we still laugh about it to this day! I thought this quote would make the perfect shop title because it is not only fun and unique, but it is also a constant reminder to me to be lighthearted in everything I do.

You can check out Sasha's etsy shop, the what. no mints? blog and the what. no mints? flickr stream for more great items. Sasha is also part of the group of etsians collaborating to Help The Gulf Coast.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Profile of a Mad Scientist: scientificculture

The Mad Scientists of Etsy present the fifth 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!

The image shows the set of finger puppets Kate from scientific culture made for MSOE's december challenge "Louis Pasteur". The set includes pasteur accompanied by a nice rabies-free cat with pasteurized milk as well as a culture of happy little culture of anthrax he made a vaccine further supporting his findings on germ theory.

As part of our continuing series, Sasha from whatnomints interviewed Kate from scientific culture. Kate builds all of her creations in her home in Kamloops, British Columbia (Canada), where she graduated with a degree in cellular, molecular, microbial biology. She has spent a while working lab jobs studying water microbiology and wildlife genetics and plans on heading back to school next year for Education so she can spread her science geeky excitement into the fragile minds of youth! She loves to spread her excitement through cute science crafts and blogging and has been creating as long as she can remember.

Why did you decide to start selling your awesome geeky goodies and how does your interaction with science inspire your work?

During my undergrad I took every possible opportunity to work some crafty fun into projects and presentations, whether it was a plush cross sectioned pseudomonas for microbiology, or subtly placed strong bad bacteriophage during a lambda life cycle for regulation of gene expression! It’s fun to express your passion for geeky science in new ways and I found that my classmates all got a kick out of my antics. This soon turned into crafting plush microbes for friends’ birthdays and eventually the cross over into Etsy selling.

My favorite items in your shop involve your cute anthropomorphic drawings. How did you come up with the idea for these and how do you create them?

My first anthropomorphic character I created was the ciliated bacillus I have as my avatar. He originated as a superhero character (with cape) that saved the day (with his fantastic array of microbial enzymes) in a cartoon I did for industrial microbiology. I liked him so much I decided more science items need to be spiced up with adorable wide set eye smiles! Voila! The cute science formula was born:

As for their creation, I’m pretty low tech. I draw out my characters with sharpies, scan them, and colour them using photoshop and a keen colour sense.

Did you experience an "a-ha moment" that made you realize that you wanted to be a scientist?

I’ve always been enthralled by how amazing the world is and science is a great tool for figuring out how each thing on our planet works! I think the closest thing I had to a “rest of my life” realization was how exciting Grade 11 Biology was! I quickly fell for every phylum (especially echinodermata) and loved memorizing every interesting tidbit of information. Once I hit University, I discovered a greater love for cellular, molecular, and microbial biology. I figure after this many years of science dedication there’s no turning back…

Do you have a favorite scientific instrument/procedure/chemical? Why? (You only have to pick one.)

My most favourite scientific procedure would have to be the Southern Blot. It is so amazing when you can team up microbiology and genetics into a huge plasmid fragment puzzle! It honestly baffles my mind how anyone came up with such complicated methods that seem so obvious and simple once you understand them. Plus figuring out DNA fragment placement from a bunch of gel electrophoresis bands is the epitome of cool.

What is the most interesting development in modern science you have come across recently? (Doesn't necessarily have to be well-known or chemistry-related.)

I’m not entirely sure about recent, but I think the most interesting molecular biology breakthrough is PCR (polymerase chain reaction). Talk about revolutionizing what is capable in the world of biology! And as a bonus it’s the same age as me! Every experiment I dabbled into has led me to thanking to wonders of PCR and even employed me in a population genetics lab! Hooray for PCR! In fact, I need to make a few anthropomorphic thermocyclers for my next button set…

Check out Kate's etsy shop scienticculture, her blog, her fan page on facebook, her flickr set and follow her on twitter.


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