How I use art to retain connection with my past passions

As some of you may know, I currently work at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Gene Editing and Screening Core Facility. What does that mean in English? I means that I do large (high throughput) experiments called screens to find novel drugs for regulating different cellular functions. Each project is different and unique and we customize our methods for every new client. While there is a number of ways to perform these large screens to test thousands of candidate compounds, I primarily work on the high content (read “image-based”) side. Surprise, surprise, right?! The vast majority of my work is based on fluorescence microscopy, which I have worked with for the past ~14 years. Image analysis is my specialty.

What you may not know is that a little over 2 years ago I was actually a client of this very facility. At that time, I was working at a biotech company in Westchester, and we had a very complex project, where we were trying to identify the cellular target of a therapeutic antibody. The antibody was being tested for use in multiple sclerosis – a demyelinating disorder of the central nervous system. At that time, all we knew was that it binds to differentiated (mature) oligodendrocytes – the cells that produce myelin. But we needed to know the specific target, and so we approached the MSKCC screening facility to help us set up a screen.

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the screen didn’t go very far, because the company suffered from some financial hardship. We had to stop the project.

Fast forward 2 years. Now I work as a scientist at this very facility and use fancy microscopes and image analysis software. Every once in a while I need to clear out the image database to make room for new screens. I usually do this to finished and outdated screens. But despite full knowledge that my original screen will never be reinitiated, I just can’t bring myself to deleting these beautiful images of some of my favorite cells.

As a matter of fact, I even made one of my artworks based on some of the images I took of these cells in my previous lab. The final piece was very difficult to photograph, because it is behind a glass frame that cannot be removed. But here is a side by side view of the original microscopy image and the beaded piece – with some artistic modifications. You can read more about it here.

All Wrapped Up, 2017
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Art is my emotional outlet and my oasis.  I use art to express my feelings and work through life issues.  Come join me on this journey of letting go of control and letting the creative process take over.  You will get access to all of the behind the scenes footage and see the major breakthroughs that translate into new artwork.

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