Traversing Academic Intersections
Last week I had the awesome opportunity to attend a biodesign exhibit hosted by two important contributors on the research team with which I have the pleasure of being associated. The projects were outcomes from an undergraduate biodesign course taught here at Penn. The installations were incredible as students came up with a host of novel applications of synthetic biology, many of which I am confident will one day be as common as the internet is today. As I reflected in awe of these fantastic and thoughtful ideas, which were all undergirded with ironic critiques of technology and design, something occurred to me. I realized that we're living in an era where collaborations are a quintessential part of generating creativity beyond what was once possible when disciplines operated in silo. We see it in our own research team as designers, biologist and educators convene to produce projects that are not only meaningful, but that often have the potential to push society further. Of course, collaborating is not always rainbows and butterflies. Sometimes tensions emerge with setting priorities, objectives and even the approach we'll take in working together. This is compounded by the variety of personalities and individual strengths we each bring to projects. What's amazing though is possibilities that emerge when we can harness those tensions to create sparks that ignite innovation. We see this over and over as designers are meeting up with genetic engineers to develop textiles that use leather produced in a laboratory and developers are teaming up with synthetic biologists and horticulturalist to invent ways to produce building materials using microbes. And so, whether it's at the intersection of art and robotics, design and biology, or engineering and environmentalism; something special emerges when engaging at the intersection of things. I fancy this.