PASADENA—Felice Frankel, a research scientist and artist-in-residence at MIT, will speak at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 5, as part of the Michelin Seminar Series. The talk will be in Beckman Institute auditorium, and is titled "The Power of Images in Communicating Science and Technology."
At MIT, Frankel helps scientists document the results of their work by means of scientific imaging and visual expression. A collection of Frankel's photos are showcased in her recently published book, On the Surface of Things—Images of the Extraordinary in Science, which she cowrote with George Whitesides, professor of chemistry at Harvard. A Caltech alum, Whitesides received his PhD in chemistry from the Institute in 1964. Frankel's photos focus on research in surface chemistry and are accompanied by Whitesides's explanations.
Frankel and Whitesides began collaborating in 1991, when Frankel attended Harvard on a fellowship. As a successful landscape architecture photographer with a longstanding interest in science, she audited Whitesides's class and invited herself to his lab. A postdoctoral fellow working with Whitesides had had an article accepted by Science with photos that, in Frankel's tactful description, "could have been improved." She took some photos herself, and they landed the article the cover of Science and launched her career change from landscape to microscopy photographer. Her photos, ranging in subject from microbes to microchips, have graced covers of Nature and Science and visually represent scientific findings. Reluctant to call herself an artist because "I'm not invoking my personality into the work, which is what an artist does; I'm finding essentially what's already there," Frankel refers to herself as "a communicator."
Frankel is currently working on a "how to" handbook, that will show how imaging can be used as a learning tool in university classrooms and teach readers how to visually represent science.
This seminar is the eighth in an ongoing series which augments the James Michelin Distinguished Visitor's Lecture series, established in 1992 by New York designer Bonnie Cashin in memory of her uncle, James Michelin, a consulting engineer, who had always hoped to attend Caltech. Both are designed to foster a creative interaction between the arts and sciences. The series has included a composer, a filmmaker, a graphic artist, and an art restorer.