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Design and Science in Conversation: Artist Roundtable

D.S. Nicholas

D.S. Nicholas, AIA, is an Assistant Professor in the Westphal College of Media Arts and Design, Department of Architecture, Design & Urbanism at Drexel University in Philadelphia. An Architect and Design Researcher, she holds a BArch from Carnegie Mellon, and an MFA from The University of the Arts. Nicholas does speculative design research for the design of healthy urban spaces in underserved communities with a focus on the residential interior. With a research driven, collaborative, and mentorship approach, her work includes novel biophilic design, human centered/design thinking processes, interior materials, and advances in building science within the urban home. Nicholas has founded an informed design research laboratory called Integral Living Research. This group creates environmentally driven solutions that work to reduce stress and support enhanced wellness for urban families. Working to develop research strategies for stress reduction in the urban built environment via new service and space-oriented solutions, the groups examines how a wellness-through-environment approach can change housing at different scales with informed sustainable strategies, social determinants for health, and trauma-informed practice. The goal of Integral Living Research is to develop customizable environment-driven tools and services which will transform urban living spaces when they fail to promote optimal health for underserved families. Nicholas has written and presented her work, Integral Living Research, designing stress reduction for urban healthy living both nationally and internationally. She is currently the Program Director for the MS in Design Research.


Audrey Speyer

Trained as a Textile - Surface - Materials designer, Audrey Speyer completed an undergraduate degree and an MA from ESAA Duperré in Paris in fashion. She graduated in 2016 with a second MA from the Material Futures course at Central Saint Martins in London. Speyer is interested in crossover projects between design and science that have a common focus on the natural environment. For her second MA degree, she researched the biotechnology of fungi that break down contaminants found in the soil. She designed a bio-system called PuriFungi—an incubator that is used to grow, harvest, and transport living mushrooms to a polluted site—while working with a laboratory in the UK and scientific researchers from Kew Gardens (UK, Richmond) and CNRS (France, Paris).

Speyer traveled to Vancouver in fall 2016 to participate in a symposium about the ways that fungi are used for the environment and health. After exhibiting PuriFungi in Milan, Venice, London and Paris in the spring and summer of 2016, Speyer has begun concentrating on developing on-site mycoremediation tests. During the Maker Faire 2017 at La Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in Paris, she worked with bio-hackers from La Paillasse in Paris to develop a connected hardware system that generates live environmental data reports and then adjusts the mushroom incubator environment accordingly. Speyer designs with and for nature by exploring living scenarios and creative technological thinking.

Jason Ferguson

Ferguson uses humor and an absurdist voice to look at moments in which empirical science overlaps with systems of belief. Recurring themes in his studio include monotonous and repetitive action, misusing scientific protocol, corporeality versus the unknown, and the ability to recontextualize the familiar to generate uncanny experiences. He often combines subjects with processes that, at first glance, appear to be unrelated. For example, he has applied medical procedures to domestic designed objects, used geological analysis to study historical architecture, combined the intimacy of a dining room with the overwhelming psychological space of a county fair, and most recently he used medical software to extract and 3D print a full-scale replica of his entire skeletal system from MRI, CT, CBCT, and EOS scans. His creative practice is broad and produces artifacts in the form of performances, videos, public interventions, and sculptural objects.

Brian Connolly

Connolly is a terrestrial community ecologist and his current research uses laboratory studies and large-scale experimental field experiments to evaluate how 1) invasions by non-native plants and 2) abiotic stresses resulting from climate change alter biotic interactions (e.g., attack by seed predators, seed pathogens) influences plant population growth and community structure. As a field ecologist he feels strongly that some of the best learning experiences and study questions result from observations and experiences made within natural settings.