Like bees, my students work at the intersection of nature, art, and science, drawing on both their experiences in diverse fields of science and engineering and also their diverse cultural backgrounds, much as the bees draw nectar from a host of different flowers. They then apply their minds, hearts, and hands to create unique micro- and nano-scale, mechanically adaptive electromechanical systems for human health monitoring—their scientific “honey.”
Following through on the bee analogy, I decided to display projects developed by students in my MAS 810 Decoders 1.2 class in seven honeycombs. Each honeycomb shows not only a new conformable device developed by the student, but also his or her artistic/personal inspiration for the design: a grandmother’s face, an ultrasound image of an infant son, or a beautiful butterfly.
Whether the result is a novel, stretchable device for ultrasound imaging, a wearable strain sensor for measuring your hands’ tremors seamlessly, or an implantable, remotely controllable, miniaturized neural drug delivery system for studying the underlying mechanism of Parkinson’s disease, these conformable devices demonstrate the benefits to society made possible when we channel our deeply personal and artistic inspirations to our scientific inquiry.
Yes, bees are magical, and so is the output of their efforts: honey. Honey’s lifespan can be preserved for almost a century, just like the rigorous science that we do.
Putting together this exhibit helped me to reflect on both my personal and academic lives. Like my students, I draw on inspiration to help me grow and develop a unique perspective: one that involves being both straightforward and, like nature itself, adaptive. The process of adaptation at the Media Lab has caused me to fail multiple times, but I have learned something from each failure. My adaptiveness has spurred me on to design and create in new ways—most recently with this exhibit.