Sitting in ‘easy pose’ at a Midwestern art and meditation festival last year, Chemistry of Life Processes Institute (CLP) predoctoral trainee Luis Schachner began an unexpected journey that led to the discovery of his inner artist and a new role as CLP’s first Artist-in-Residence.

“I was very enthusiastic about mindfulness and meditation,” says Schachner, a PhD candidate in the department of Chemistry, “but there was a lingering question of what happens next? What do I do now that I’m present?”

Spending time with other artists at the festival allowed the young scientist’s creativity and imagination to run free. The experience gave rise to a newfound passion for creating, what Schachner terms “Art Spectra,” exploration of the intersection of art and scientific data visualization.

Becoming an artist

The native mass spectrum of endogenous nucleosomes transformed into an artistic representation that highlights the chaos of biological diversity. The endogenous diversity of nucleosomes – due to differences in DNA and histone modifications – produces an undecipherable spectral signature that, like the man’s mustache, reflects the beauty and messiness of biology.

“I realized that being an artist is an identity that you can step into,” says Schachner. “All these people were working on empowering themselves—using the tools of meditation to create from this place of non-judgment.”

Soon afterwards, Schachner picked up an iPAD® and began to experiment with a drawing app.

“I never took any formal training in drawing, but there were ways to create beautiful things without having to go through hundreds of sketches. The technology was so advanced that I didn’t have to rely on my technical skills to express myself artistically,” said the predoctoral student.

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Original story by Lisa La Vallee published by Chemistry of Life Processes Institute on May 20, 2021.