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Exposure for hidden learning

Wednesday 15 March 2017

chrysalis-hidden-learning-mainbodyA piece of art inspired by women in science at the University of St Andrews has been named one of the world’s most incredible science images.

‘Hidden Learning’ (right), a painting by Fife-based artist Sophie McKay Knight, has been named recipient of a Wellcome Image Award, which celebrates photographs or illustrations that capture the imagination and bring complex concepts to life.

The piece was inspired by a project at the University which brings together young and established female researchers.

The project, Chrysalis, highlights and celebrates the successes of female scientists as well as the hurdles they still face as women in academia today. 

The result was a unique set of work by Sophie which drew on research imagery including single ion channel read-outs, DNA, crystal and protein structures, hummingbirds, insects and immortal cell lines.

Hidden Learning explores elements that women feel they keep hidden in the work environment, such as the pull between their career and home life.

The veil in the image is made up of the molecular structure of a sugar molecule, contributed by one of the participating female scientists at St Andrews.

Sophie previously teamed up with the School of Chemistry at St Andrews to present an exhibition, Molecular Self, which included an array of works influenced by the DNA molecule. 

She said: “I'm delighted to be included in the awards. The process of talking to the women scientists and then creating the paintings was an illuminating and enriching experience which has developed my practice in new ways.”

As part of the award, the piece will be displayed in Wellcome’s London HQ, and will tour venues across the UK, Europe and Africa, including the Science Museum in London, the Polytechnic Museum in Moscow, the Eden Project in Cornwall and Dundee Science Centre.

Two of Sophie’s other paintings from the Chrysalis project have also been accepted into the Wellcome Image Gallery biomedical image collection, which is used by broadcasters, publishers and academics around the world.

Chrysalis was jointly funded by the Biochemical Society, the Wellcome Trust ISSF Award, and Equality and Diversity at the University of St Andrews. 

A key aim of the initiative was to explore and demonstrate how creativity and imagination are as essential as integrity and precision when pursuing scientific research, just as integrity and precision is essential in creative industries.

Dr Mhairi Stewart, Head of Public Engagement at the University and Chrysalis project leader, said: “We are all incredibly delighted with the award. Chrysalis has brought together researchers from across the University in an informal way that stimulates discussion and forms friendships that continue to support women researchers in a way that compliments and extends direct mentorship programmes.

“The collaboration with Sophie has been hugely rewarding and we all look forward to working with her again in the future.”

Sophie and Mhairi will accept the award at a ceremony hosted by Wellcome today (15 March).


Photo: ‘Hidden Learning’ by Sophie McKay Knight

Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews, contact 01334 462530 or 01334 467227 or email proffice@st-andrews.ac.uk.