Team:UCLA/Project/Human Practices



Human Practices

Seres: Inhabitants of the Land of Silk

From our first contact with processing silk, our group became enamored with the look and feel of our silk, and the different forms it could take. We began to get involved with not just the scientific value, but the aesthetic of our silk products, and we knew there must be some application to it outside our laboratory.

Also from the onset of our project, we knew we wanted to share our fascination with silk to the outside community, and explore what potential uses our project could have. We dreamed big: we wanted our project to reach world of biomedical devices, optics and fashion. But we were also interested in what potential others saw in our project, and after reaching out to the community, our human practices was born.

Titled "Seres: Inhabitants of the Land of Silk," our project is a collaboration with the UCLA Art | Sci Center dedicated to bridge the gap between art and science through an open exhibition. On display is work from artist Jason Fahrion, who grows silkworms and creates mosaics out of their naturally fluorescent coccoons, as well as our own iGEM wall, where we lay out an interactive web-like diagram breaking down how we process our silk into different materials like fibers, gels and dust, with samples for guests to see and feel and experience the silk the same way we get to in our lab. Also along the walls are other forms of silk art, including a glass display of live silkworms feeding on mulberry leaves, Jason's mosaics and a display of the historical uses of silkworms and their silk. Through this, we hope to have the community explore with us the art and beauty behind our science, and the science behind what we see as art.

The exhibition is open to the pubic, and here is a look inside "Seres: Inhabitants of the Land of Silk."

LASER (Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous):

Following the exhibition was a series of talks, the Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous (LASER). This talk featured a number of artists who explore the relationship between science and art. Among them was filmmaker Mary Tsang, who recently released DIYSECT, a documentary on DIY Biology and the influence that it had on the scientific and artistic community. In her talk, she mentioned that a number of community Biology laboratories had been contacted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding their responsibility to remain vigilant of the possibility of individuals misusing synthetic biology to cause harm and damage.

This was a stark reminder that while all of us participating in iGEM seek to use synthetic biology to create beneficial technologies, it does have the potential to raise threats and cause serious harm. As a team, we discussed this in depth over the next few weeks and came to an agreement that as synthetic biologists, we do have a responsibility to be aware of what happens in our field. We felt that there is no need to treat our fellow synthetic biologists with suspicion, as the tone of the FBI appeared to recommend. However, we agreed with the fact that we have an obligation to not only conduct our own projects and experiments ethically, but to ensure that others in our field do so as well.

Learn More:

To learn more about our collaboration with the UCLA Art | Sci Center, as well as the other speakers who attended the LASER talk session, check out the following links:

Art | Sci Presents Seres: Inhabitants of the Land of Silk
Mick Lorusso, curator of the exhibit
Victoria Vesna, director of UCLA Art | Sci
DIYSECT: A Documentary Web-Series on DIY Biology and Bioart
Mary Tsang, director of DIYSECT