I am thrilled to announce that I will be one of the Synthetic Aesthetics residents this fall. Synthetic Aesthetics is a new program run through Stanford and the University of Edinburgh and funded by the National Science Foundation and the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council that asks the question “how would you design nature?”:
Synthetic Biology is a new approach to engineering biology, generally defined as the application of engineering principles to the complexity of biology. Biology has become a new material for engineering. From biological circuits made from DNA to entire systems, synthetic biology is interested in making biology something that can be designed.
Traditional engineering disciplines have tackled design by working alongside designers and developing longstanding collaborations. Synthetic Aesthetics is a research project jointly run by the University of Edinburgh and Stanford University that aims to bring together synthetic biologists, social scientists, designers, artists, and other creative practitioners, to explore collaborations between synthetic biology and the creative professions. Interaction between these two broad fields has the potential to lead to new forms of engineering, new schools of art and design, a greater social scientific understanding of science and engineering, and new approaches to societal engagement with synthetic biology.
The complex intersections between science, engineering, technology, art, design, and social sciences highlighted by synthetic biology have fascinated me for a long time, and I am very excited to be able to explore these issues while working with Sissel Tolaas, an odor artist whose work focuses on how we communicate and interact with our environment through scent. I will of course be writing here and elsewhere about our project and that of the other residents, as we all try to figure out how we would design nature together.