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The Art & Science Soirée aimed to provide the inspiration, tools and spaces to work on interdisciplinary, open science projects

last modified Mar 27, 2019 01:55 PM
As part of this year's Cambridge Science Festival, The Art & Science Soirée brought together scientists, engineers, artists and designers for an exciting evening of speed meets, snap-talks, hands-on demos, and unexpected encounters. From the beginning, it was important to the organisers that the evening not only produce sparks of inspiration, but provide the tools and resources to be able to move forward and produce something tangible with them.

The sun was setting on Monday 18 March as friends and guests climbed the stairs up to Othersyde, a newly-opened bar and arts venue that was looking gorgeous for its first big event. After some time for guests to mingle and have a drink, the event kicked off with a bespoke slam poetry performance entitled, "Science Art & Communication" by Peter Bickerton. 

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 A snippet...

With art we can open doors, and open access.

With rhyme, We can inspire more minds, To explore and play, Try a little DIY..

Bio at home, Now that we can sequence, A genome, Quite comfortably in it’s comforts.

PhDs, though oversubscribed, And still yet overabundant, Soon, perhaps, to become redundant.

Science, like the world, It seeks to explain. Must move with the times.

Bio by design, Synthetic, Not necessarily aligned

To stifling institutions, Over hours, Underpaid.

Innovation, Not anathema to academia, But made more swiftly possible, With time to play.

Tinker, tailor, Start-up maker.

Writer, painter, Story maker.

Engaged and engaging; Science told the proper way.

Read the full poem here >>>


To loosen up the audience a bit, Peter and co-organiser Sophie Weeks led a tent-wide game of rock paper scissors that ended up with half the room screaming for two people in the ultimate best-out-of-3. 



When everyone settled back down, we were treated to the first of two great talks. Jim Ajioka is a Lecturer in the University of Cambridge Dept. of Pathology and co-chair of the SynBio SRI. In 2018, Jim and his former post-doc Orr Yarkoni co-founded Colorifix, a start-up that has developed a revolutionary dyeing technology to help the textile industry dramatically reduce its environmental impact in a cost effective manner. Colorifix is the first company to use a natural biological process to produce, deposit and fix pigments onto a wide variety of fabrics. Jim talked us through the inspiration for the company, the science behind it, and some collaborations and future projects with the Victoria & Albert Museum, fashion designer Stella McCartney, and more. 

Throughout the evening, there were ongoing exhibitions of DIY, open science within the house. The projects were funded by the Biomaker Challenge, several of which were conceptualised at the Biomakespace in Cambridge where interdisciplinary teams were able to meet, run experiments, prototype and more. You can find all projects documented and reproducible on


Exhibitors included: 

- Colourimeter: Mobile Colour Measurement
- Spectre: Low-cost Biosensor for Environmental and Medical Surveillance 
- Bioreactor: Open-source Lab Tools
- Wearable Biosensor for Monitoring Vaginal Health
- Biomaker: Funding for interdisciplinary team-based projects at the intersection of design, engineering, biology and instrumentation.
- Biomakespace: Cambridge's first community-based, open-access biology lab and prototyping space.

(The dresses were designed by Jim Ajioka's daughter and dyed through the Colorifix process)


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Later in the evening, Giulia Tomasello (an interaction designer specialising in women's healthcare) presented her award-winning project entitled, "Future Flora." The kit, conceptualised during her master's degree in Material Futures at Central Saint Martins, allows women to grow and harvest living cultures that can support intimate health. It features an agar jelly-based element designed to be worn much like a sanitary napkin. The bacteria grown in this jelly pad help to balance vaginal flora – bacteria that live in the vagina, which act to prevent and treat Candida yeast infections like thrush.

"The kit has been designed to allow women to establish, nurture and harvest their very own personal skin flora at home, becoming not only consumers but also active participants in their own health and wellbeing," Giulia said in an interview with Dezeen

In 2018, Giulia participated in the Biomaker Challenge. Her team won the award for Biomaker Spirit with the development of a wearable biosensor for monitoring vaginal fluids. Displaying a truly interdisciplinary, DIY spirit, Giulia continues to work at the intersection of biotechnology, interactive wearables, innovation and design. 



From Female Biophilia, Giulia Tomasello Watch the full video >>> 


At the end of the night, we held a soap box session for anyone looking to introduce themselves and their work, pitch a project idea, or find collaborations. Ben Dobson (The Microscope Man- whose artwork was exhibited throughout the house) kicked off the session with a snappy introduction to his wonderful photographs and involvement in the larger SciArt Cambridge community.  


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Watch David Spiegelhalter's session here >>>

After Ben, several brave souls climbed up onto the soap box and completely wow-ed the audience with their amazing projects including stain glass art illustrating mathematical and scientific technical results and a hand-knitted gene with each coloured stripe representing a different base! 

The aim of the event was to provide inspiration for open science projects, showcase the tools available to pursue such projects through the Biomaker Challenge, and highlight the Biomakespace as a community-accessible space in which scientists and non-scientists alike can experiment with and prototype these projects. We hope that the event will inspire and provide an avenue for artists, designers, scientists and non-scientists to share ideas and get involved in open science. 


More photos >>> 

Taken by artist Kelly Briggs



Peter Bickerton (Science Communicator, Earlham Institute)

Jim Ajioka (Co-founder, Colorifix)

Giulia Tomasello (Interaction Designer and Researcher specialising in women’s healthcare)

Ben Dobson



SynBio SRI


SciArt in Cambridge

The Art & Science Soirée


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The Synthetic Biology Strategic Research Initiative provides a hub for anyone interested in Synthetic Biology at the University of Cambridge, as well as commercial partners and external collaborators.