On a Friday night in Roanoke, 24 Virginia Tech graduate students swapped pipettes for glue sticks, test tubes for glitter, and petri dishes for pencils at the first Science on Canvas event hosted by the Virginia Tech Communicating Science Club (CommSci) in partnership with the Taubman Museum of Art.

“Growing up, I was surrounded by my uncle’s artwork, which was always a source of creativity for me,” said Frankie Edwards, a student in the Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health (TBMH) Graduate Program and one of the event’s creators. “This event was a way for me to honor him and take art and creativity and mesh it together with research that could help graduate students to identify aspects of their research that they may have a hard time communicating.”

Edwards serves as co-president of the CommSci Club along with fellow TBMH graduate student Amanda Hensley. The two conceived Science on Canvas together and pitched the idea to Katrina King-Singh, strategic partnerships manager and assistant to the executive director at the Taubman Museum of Art.

“Science on Canvas is a new initiative to get graduate students to put their research on canvas and express it in a new and artistic way,” King-Singh said. “More than that, we’re also providing a way for them to express their research to the public, as we’ll be displaying their artwork here at the Taubman Museum of Art. It gives them an opportunity to showcase what they’re doing at Virginia Tech.”

Maruf Hoque
Maruf Hoque, a TBMH graduate student in the Chappell Lab at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, proudly shows off his group’s collaborative collage during the first Science on Canvas event hosted by the Taubman Museum of Art. Photo by Clayton Metz for Virginia Tech.

The event focused on skill development, as King-Singh led the students in three distinct activities: collaborative collage, communication through observation and drawing, and doodle journaling.

“I'm a writer, so words are my typical medium. Drawing, painting, and using the visual arts is a bit of a challenge for me,” said Gates Palissery, a TBMH graduate student working at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute. “This event was all about learning how to communicate in a new way.”

At the conclusion of the evening, each attendee was provided with a blank canvas to produce a work of art depicting his or her research over the next month. Once completed, that artwork was to be displayed at the Taubman Museum of Art for two weekends and then put on display at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute for the remainder of the 2022 spring semester.

“This was a pilot event, but I hope that it can be an annual thing, for sure,” Edwards said.

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