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Nifty Fifty – Bring a Top Scientist to your Middle or High School

Ms. RebeccaKamen

Years Participated: Nifty Fifty 2013/2014, Nifty Fifty 2014/2015

Nominated by:

2014 Nifty Fifty Speaker Rebecca Kamen nvcc logo USA Science and Engineering Festival

Rebecca Kamen: Creator of Fascinating Works at the Intersection of Art and Science



"There are many similarities between science and art," says Rebecca Kamen, noted artist and Professor Emeritus of art at Northern Virginia Community College. "Both disciplines are experimental, driven by curiosity, detail, and a desire to understand the world and its complexities, and to make it meaningful to us."

Rebecca is among a growing number of science-inspired artists who are demonstrating that the boundaries between art and science are not as blurred as the average person may believe. You only have to look at the prodigious body of her creative work (including the sculpture and high-tech soundscape she is creating in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Einstein's discovery of general relativity) to realize how each discipline can inform and influence the other.

After 35 years of college teaching, Rebecca is now spending more time in the studio developing her art, in addition to lecturing nationally on the intersections of art and science. "It's all extremely gratifying," she says with a smile.

"Currently, I am working on a collaboration with an astrophysicist at MIT investigating gravitational wave physics, developing a sculpture installation celebrating the 100th anniversary of Einstein's discovery of general relativity," she explains.. The installation includes both sculpture and a soundscape inspired by sonic frequencies emitted from black holes. It will be exhibited at James Madison University in the Fall of 2014, and at the National Academy of Sciences in 2015, the actual 100th year anniversary of Einstein's discovery.
In addition, in 2014 her science-inspired art lectures and exhibits have included presentations at the STEM to STEAM Lecture / Workshop, Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax, VA; Physics / Astronomy Seminar, and Medical Museum Science Cafe, The National Museum of Health and Medicine.

In her career, she has also exhibited and lectured internationally, including in China, Hong Kong, Korea, Chile, Spain and Egypt.

Recently, as an artist in residence in the neuroscience program at National Institutes of Health, Rebecca has interpreted and transformed neuroscience research into sculptural form. Her artwork is represented throughout the country in many private and public collections including at the National Institutes of Health, KPMG Peat Martwick Corporation, Gannett Corporation, IBM, Capital One and the Institute for Defense Analysis.

Throughout her career, she has also used her art-science focus to help students, scientists, mathematicians, artists and others to question the world around them, discover new ways to frame questions (or define problems), evaluate hypotheses, and present results in a fresh and exciting manner.

Her love of art and scientific discovery goes back to childhood. "With awe and wonder, I spent much of my childhood investigating the world of elements with a simple chemistry set, and used that set to create elaborate science-fair projects," she recalls. This led to a deep curiosity about how to create "bridges between seemingly unrelated disciplines."

Rebecca received Masters degrees from Rhode Island School of Design (sculpture) and the University of Illinois (art education, and her undergraduate degree from Penn State University in art education.

Her numerous awards and honors include being the recipient of a Virginia Museum of Fine Art Professional Fellowship, a Pollack Krasner Foundation Fellowship, two Strauss Fellowships, an NIH Artist Residency, and a Travel Grant from the Chemical Heritage Foundation.

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