Resident makes artwork out of microscopic objects

Images taken by graduate students and postdoctoral fellows at the University of Illinois’ Core Facilities at the Institute for Genomic Biology were on display in an “Art of Science” exhibit at Indi Go Gallery during the Boneyard Arts Festival in downtown Champaign.


Mahomet resident Mayandi Sivaguru is the Microscopy Facility Manager at the Core Facilities.

Through designing experiments and creating protocols, he trains more than 300 students a year in Light Microscopy and Image Analysis techniques.


Instruments at Core Facilities magnify microscopic objects 600 to 1,000 times to 250 nanometer resolution, and can be automatically tiled to achieve tens of thousands of pixels in an image, so when zoomed into, the image won’t become pixilated.


Twenty-one images of a mouse embryo, collagen, coral, rock, plant, stem cells, brain tissue and salt crystals from dried liquid were available for the festival. This is the first time images have been available outside of the IGB for an art show.


Each month, a Core Facilities image is selected and displayed as the IGB image of the month.


“It gives a different perspective for art,” Sivaguru said. “Art is something we think humans create, but nature has art. Even if a person doesn’t know anything about science, one can see the art of nature, which has a scientific background, and one will appreciate that. Science behind unraveling nature can also be an art.”


Sivaguru earned his first doctorate studying plant physiology in India. After a three-year post-doctoral stay in Germany as a Germanic Academic Exchange Service fellow, he received a second doctorate in Japan before coming to the University of Missouri to study the effects of aluminum toxicity and plant root growth in acid soils in 2000.


“I used microscopes a lot in my studies. It’s physics and optics, which are not my primary areas of study or training. I developed the interest to study new techniques to improve my studies, and then it became a career,” he said. Sivaguru managed the Core Facilities at the University of Missouri for six years.


There weren’t many teaching opportunities near the university for his wife, Geetha, who also did part of her doctoral thesis in the Germanic Academic Exchange Service. When the Core Facilities opened at the IGB in the University of Illinois in 2006, the family moved with their twin sons to Mahomet. Geetha has been teaching sixth-grade science at Mahomet-Seymour Junior High School since 2007.


Sivaguru and his boss, Glenn Fried, director of Core Facilities, who is also from Mahomet, have helped the Core Facilities grow piece-by-piece from an empty building to a facility that is almost full.


Sivaguru said that the images will be available for other art shows or for schools if they wish to display them. “The success of this type of exhibit is that if it can inspire one person who might want to pursue a career in this type of field,” he said.


“The Art of Science” exhibit was made possible by Doug Nelson of Bodywork Associates and the Indi Go Artist Co-op. To see high resolution images from Core Facilities, visit http://www.igb.illinois.edu/core/artscience.

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