art and science

Art in the Lab (Falling in Love with Bacteria)

Today’s guest makes time to create beauty in the lab. Memo Berkmen is a bacterial artist along with being a staff scientist at New England Bio Labs. He and his colleague, Maria Penil, were the winners of the American Society for Microbiology’s agar art contest in 2015. Their felicitous relationship with the unseen, often unnoticed, world of ancient organisms fills us with wonder and inspiration.


Bacteria art by Memo Berkmen, Maria Penil

Homo Sapiens (D)Evolves into Homo Medicus

A well known science and medical author, Wades Tudeep, has proposed an upgrade to a famous Shakespeare quote from Hamlet:

“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable!  In action how like an Angel!  In apprehension how like a god! . . . [proposed addition] . . . In DNA, what an  encyclopedia of disease!"

The Perfect 46 with Brett Ryan Bonowicz, Filmmaker


Brett Ryan Bonowicz, Filmmaker
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Listen (4:00) Where is the "fiction" in your science fiction?

Listen (4:47) Upcoming screenings

Listen (3:51) Learning where to draw the ethical lines

Listen (3:43) What would a biotech company look like with Steve Jobs or Elon Musk as CEO?

Listen (2:42) Would you personally try a service like GenePeeks?

Listen (6:53) Tackling the topic of GMO's next

In today’s interview, we talk with filmmaker, Brett Ryan Bonowicz. He’s the writer, director and producer of The Perfect 46, a new film exploring the future of direct-to-consumer genetic testing. Whereas our industry often gets demonized by Hollywood sci-fi blockbusters that are full of special effects and fancy sets, Brett’s film seeks to ask tough ethical questions and show the industry in a more nuanced way.

“I knew I wanted to get into science fiction. And I knew I wanted to get into discussions that didn’t have definitive answers, where I could explore a lot of grey area where each person was right in their own way,” he says in explaining why he chose his topic.

While the film is set just barely into the future, and there is no company existing today like the one in the film, the screenplay unfolds in a very plausible way. A geneticist creates a website called "The Perfect 46" that pairs folks with their genetic match for having children.

To better describe his interest in portraying events that might be right around the corner, Brett calls his work “science-factual,” a term he says he borrowed from some Walt Disney work.

Brett was first attracted to the topic in 2008 when he read about 23andMe in Time Magazine and subsequently used their service. Watching his film and talking with Brett gives us a chance to see the industry from an outsider’s perspective.

The film’s next screening is at Stanford on August 4th, accompanied by a panel discussion with local life scientists.

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Take Some Time and Watch the Fog Roll In

When I first moved to the Bay Area, it took a while to get used to the fog in the summer. It's cold and doesn't even give out a powerful thunder or lightning like the summer storms of my youth in Utah. Now I find myself looking for it, longing for that cool blanket in this cradle we call home.

Take some time and enjoy this beautiful piece that photographer Simon Christen made for his daughter over the course of two years.

George Church on Art, Science and Philosophy

Podcast Sponsor: Biomatters - the creators of Geneious - DNA, RNA and protein sequence alignment, assembly and analysis software platform- like a swiss army knife for molecular biology.


Church George, PhD, Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School and Professor of Health Sciences & Technology, Harvard and MIT.
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Chapters (Move marker to advance)

0:35 Ars Electronica

1:55 The first encoding of digital art into DNA

4:20 The ENCODE project

7:14 Are scientists the new world rulers?

9:24 Teased by the future

At Mendelspod we like to showcase a different side of the industry leaders. Last month we caught up with Dr. George Church after the Burrill Personalized Medicine Conference. He had just returned from Linz, Austria where he gave the keynote address to the Ars Electronica Show. What was he doing at an art show, we ask him along with some other favorite questions.

"Are you playing God. . . . because you certainly have the beard for it." Stephen Colbert in an interview with Dr. Church

An Ambassador for Art and Science

We keep running into scientists who are artists as well. A few months ago, I wrote a blog, Art and Science, exploring the idea of the renaissance person, someone who is proficient at many different disciplines. If scientists are to become experts in their field, must they proceed at the exclusion of other interests, I asked. Since then we’ve met a few more successful scientists who are proficient as artists as well.