Science as Art

An Interview with Liana Movsesyan

GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH (Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research) Darmstadt, Germany

"To me, science and art are two fields that are very much related."

Beilstein-Institut: Liana, your picture was shown at the “Science as Art” exhibition at the Materials Research Society (MRS) Spring Meeting in San Francisco. Can you please tell us about this event and the result of the competition?
I was one of 47 finalists chosen from among 140 artistic entries. I didn’t win any of the three first place or three second place awards, and to be honest, I was a little bit upset that day. However, when I was back at GSI, I realized that the real motivation for me was not a prize but my work itself; the possibility to create something useful for applications from the science point of view and at the same time something beautiful from the art viewpoint.

Can you please explain what is shown on the picture?
I call the picture “ZnO nanofern jungle”. Those nanoferns are zinc oxide (ZnO) nanostructures which grew on top of ZnO nanowires during the templated electrodeposition.

How was the picture taken?
To analyze and understand nanostructures, you need to use a high resolution scanning electron microscope (HRSEM). Before putting the samples in the microscope, they didn’t look special to me. When I started my analysis, the image of a nanofern jungle immediately appeared on the computer screen. I was starring on it and could not believe my eyes. The only thing I could pronounce out loud was “Oh, this is amazing”.

How did you get the idea to color the picture?

The idea came step by step. First, I was preparing the pictures for my presentation. The application, for what I study these nanostructures, is so called water splitting. Just for ease, sometimes people call it an artificial photosynthesis. It is similar to the real photosynthesis process in a sense that with these devices the sunlight is used to split the water into hydrogen and oxygen. I colored my nano nature artwork to present it as nano nature similar to pictures of real nature. Moreover, I wanted to compare real and artificial photosynthesis.

Why and how do you find the “Science as Art” images inspiring?
I can’t easily describe my inspiration, I just deeply feel it. Unfortunately, a lot of people often think about difficulties when talking about science. Indeed, it is not that easy to be a scientist doing serious research. I think, the “Science as Art” images are the best motivators and inspirations. For me, science is more like sculpture or pottery: You create something new and unbelievably beautiful. That is the best moment of my research work.


From your point of view: Are there similarities between science and art?

When I was in middle school, I wanted to study art as I always liked making hand craft things and drawing. And though after my high school I studied material science and not art at all, I think my wish anyway came true (thanks to the Beilstein-Institut and the Materials Research Department at GSI). The science itself is art. Before, I never thought about it, but now I surely can state that there are many similarities between science and art; both are creative and attractive in all senses.

"I can’t easily describe or tell about my inspiration, I just deeply feel it."