When science is art: a different view on cancer

27 Aug 2012

A young artist recovering from cancer has teamed up with researchers from The University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) to understand the molecular changes in her body that occurred during the disease.

"I'm a very visual person, so when I was first diagnosed with cancer, I was trying to imagine what my cells would look like as they changed in response to the disease," artist Joannah Underhill said.

Ms Underhill hopes to use her IMB residency to create art that both expresses her journey and educates people about biology, medicine and research.

It's a confluence of science and art that collaborator Dr Nick Hamilton, a world leader in scientific visualisation, fully supports.

"It's a unique visual world we have available to us at IMB and I've always thought artists could interpret and make sense of our images in a very different way from scientists," Dr Hamilton said.

He and microscopy expert John Griffin use the ACRF Cancer Biology Imaging Facility at IMB, funded by the Australian Cancer Research Foundation, to produce images of diseased and healthy cells that are used by researchers throughout the Institute to study cancer.

Ms Underhill adopts these pictures, including some of her own immune cells, as inspiration for her work. She is blogging about the residency at www.jounderhill.com

"There's something profoundly moving about looking at part of yourself down the microscope, or observing processes that occur in your body," Ms Underhill said.

Ms Underhill and Dr Hamilton will give a talk titled, "A Picture is Worth 1000 Words: When Science is Art" at Brisbane's Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) on the 30th of August, which will include speical guest Ros Bates, the Queensland Minister for Science, IT, Innovation and the Arts.

Ms Underhill's work will also be exhibited at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, where Ms Underhill received treatment, The University of Queensland and Hilltop on Tambourine gallery. 

Dr Nick Hamilton - 07 3346 2033 or n.hamilton@imb.uq.edu.au

IMB Communications - 07 3346 2134 or advancement@imb.uq.edu.au