As the fall semester came to an end, students from Clarke University’s BioChemistry and Art + Design programs hosted the annual “Form + Function” social on December 5.
During the event, student collaborators gave poster presentations detailing a semester’s worth of research and design dedicated to exploring the impacts of psychedelics on the human body. Biochemistry, Biology, and Chemistry students chose from different drugs like LSD, Cocaine, and Methamphetamine and measured their impact on proteins such as serotonin or dopamine. They were then paired with an Graphic Design or Digital Media Studies student to convey their findings in a visual representation, such as posters and book covers.
“A project like this offers value to all students,” said Associate Professor of Art + Design Eric Wold. “The Biochemistry students are exposed to powerful methods of communicating information, while the Art + Design students are challenged to explain complex data in a compelling way. It allows everyone on the team to be inventive and creative, while gaining real-world experience.”
Chemistry and Biology major Lillian Himmelmann ’24 partnered with Jayden Harrington ’23 in researching how the psychostimulants methamphetamine and cocaine fit into the active site of the dopamine transporter in the brain in order to understand how they bond and how each drug’s physiological effects differ. They then worked with Digital Media Studies major Alexander Sayago Bryson ’25 to create a poster to explain their findings.
This project prepared me for my future by pushing me out of my comfort zone. We didn’t necessarily have instructions for the project, so we had to figure out what we wanted to talk about with a few guidelines. I learned that everyone has a part to do, but to make the project work, we needed to be on the same page about what specifically to research and how to make the information flow.
The event expanded the interdisciplinary learning opportunities by including catering from Clarke’s Nutrition and Food Science students.
The collaboration, which is led by Eric and Professor of Chemistry Sunil Malapati, has taken place since 2008 and serves as an educational model for other universities, such as the Center for Biomolecular Modeling at Milwaukee School of Engineering.