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creativity within science

an immersion vanderbilt project exploring the importance of artistic integration within scientific frameworks

introduction & overview!

creativity within science by navya thakkar ('22)


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all through my life, art & science have seemingly always been at a crossroads; two of my biggest passions that used to conceptually oppose each other. creativity within science was my way of investigating the middle ground between scientific discoveries & artistic practices. in concurrence with my mentor, dr. kendra oliver, i decided to explore how my artistic vision can be usefully integrated into communication of scientific concepts. furthermore, this project was guided by my time as co-president & studio artist at vanderbilt artlab.

my intentions with creativity within science was to work with a wide variety of science based research & labs, learn about their field of study, & create artworks that are appropriate to their needs. therefore, the projects i worked on ranged from logo design, to creating visual materials for research labs, to creating an abstract artwork founded in scientific concept, & everything in between. these clients were either found using artlab's resources & connections, or were individuals that reached out directly to me for a commission based on previous work.

during the course of this project, i learned both artistic & scientific skills: reading & understanding academic articles, learning how to digitally design, developing an effective commission system for artlab & myself, communicating & discussing ideas with clients, & becoming a confidently commissioning artist. the most significant development i observed during this project was the development of personal process of designing artworks from science. for me, it helps being able to read all academic materials on the subject, gaining insight by asking thoughtful questions about member's views of the lab/the research, & creating the space for the "back-&-forth" between you & the clients for when artistic choices have to be made. going through this process with all the different art projects allowed me to refine it & redefine it to what suits my style as an artist & a scientist.

working on creativity within science taught me that art & science can not only co-exist in a field of study but are rather complimentary to each other. in addition to experience & importance skills, my immersion project has also provided me with a network & community of inspiring science-artists, that are equally as passionate about integrating the two seemingly irreconcilable concepts. i want to continue to grow my passion in science-art & science communication & hope to one day practice art as a way to bridge the gap between the academic community & the public, using art as a vehicle to impart the critical information that scientific research discovers. i've found that science is more than just objectivity, that there is a beauty that can & should be captured. creativity, inspiration & expression are extremely important parts of scientific progress & the assimilation of artistic vision into scientific frameworks will further future of humanity.

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to learn more about artlab, visit

the immersion project is a new addition to the undergraduate requirement for vanderbilt university. the hope for these immersive, student-designed projects is to provide undergraduate students with the opportunity to pursue their passions & cultivate intellectual interests through experiential learning. this intensive learning experience takes place in & beyond the classroom & culminates in the completion of a final project. for more information about immersion vanderbilt, visit

attack on ZIKV

digital design (collaboration with artist & scientist skylar cuevas), 2020

attack on ZIKV


though promising drug candidates for treating viral diseases, antiviral human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) have remained undiscovered due to technological limitations. in recent research on antiviral antibody therapeutics, an integrated sequence of technologies have been developed allows for the discovery of human mAbs such as the zika virus (ZIKV) specific human mAbs, as depicted in the artwork. using this technological sequence, researchers have identified the functions of these human mAbs as well as verified their therapeutic potency as future viral treatments. this artwork was collaboration with a friend & college, skylar cuevas. we worked together on conceptualizing how we wanted to depict the newly discovered research on antiviral antibody therapeutics. together, we decided to create this antibody vs. virus war zone, where i designed the ZIKV virus & skylar designed the antibodies. while we founded our image based on accurate scientific visuals, we decided to emphasize artistic elements that we could identify within the biological concepts. attack on ZIKV is an abstract, artistic visual representing the relationship between a virus & its antibodies. because it was a collaborative effort, you can see the presence of 2 different artistic styles that mold together to make an informative, but attractive scientific visual.

attack o ZIKV

vanderbilt center for addiction research (vcar)

digital design, 2020


for one of my very first science art projects, i collaborated with the vanderbilt center for addiction research (VCAR). in the process of revamping their website, VCAR needed an artist to come up with & illustrate icons for each of their 6 research areas in the institution. each icon created was based on the scientific framework of the research area, to represent the crux of each area of study & its importance in addiction research.

to learn more about the vanderbilt center for addiction research & view these artworks, visit

individual descriptions of artworks are included below:

development & refinement of pharmaceutical strategies to treat addiction (top-left):

when looking at medical complications, the first step is always analyzing the body’s biological reaction to its internal environment. through these observations, it is possible to focus on how these reactions can be triggered externally, if the bodily processes internally malfunction. medication in the form of pills, syrups & injections are the first responders to any complications & are vital in aiding the recovery from an addiction. as depicted in the artwork, it should be emphasized that the research into pharmaceutical strategies is an essential first step towards treatment.

preclinical models of addiction & negative effect (top-middle):

this is the stage of research...

vanderbilt center for addictin research


digital design for the madhur lab (vumc), 2020



during the artlab artist-in-residence program (summer 2020), i was matched with the madhur lab in vumc, where i was mentored by dr. meenakshi madhur to create an art piece for the lab’s research. their study was centered around the connection between immune t-cells & increased blood pressure, trying to discover a pharmaceutical treatment for hypertension when viewed as an inflammatory process. additionally, the lab was not looking for a scientifically accurate visual, but rather one that could encompass their research holistically, & could be used to represent the lab. we decided to focus on encompassing the unlikely connection of bodily processes studied in a visual that describes the lab’s area of research accurately, with a touch of the abstract style of art.

this piece, titled “interconnectedness,” depicts the internal parts of the body that play a role in the inflammatory process of hypertension. through abstract visualization of the body, it shows the link between DNA & the circulatory system, including the arteries, veins & the heart. the immune cells (t-cells & dendrite cells) are shown to aggregate around the heart & the kidneys, causing inflammation in organs, as well as play a large role in causing hypertension, shown by the arm cuff with the high blood pressure gauge. the uninterrupted flow of the image interconnecting the different biological concepts included in the research allows the audience to view these different parts of the body as working as one singular system. 

to learn more about the madhur lab & their research, visit

to learn more about the artlab artist-in-residence program & view this artwork, visit


the trio for black in cardio

digital design, 2020


black in cardio is a UK-based organization, with a focus on celebrating Black excellence in the cardiovascular field & raising awareness on cardiovascular diseases in the Black community. after viewing my work for the madhur lab on twitter, the black in cardio team reached out to me individually to commission a project to promote black in cardio week of 2020, where they held a whole week of virtual events based on important scientific issues within the Black community. they wanted a set of 3 images that represented the 3 most important issues addressed within the Black medical community: the vasculature, the heart & diabetes. something that was important to for this project was the diverse representation of skin color in images, in addition to concept. i created the 3 illustrations above to represent each of these issues in a way that are inclusive, have a strong scientific presence & are attractive to the public. each illustration is inspired by the black in cardio logo!

to learn more about black in cardio, visit

to view the program for black in cardio week 2020 & the artworks, visit

the trio for black in cardio

vanderbilt lgbt policy lab logo

digital design, 2020