Hear it from us: How Art Meets Science started

Virpi Talman and Qasim Majid at Viikki Campus, University of Helsinki

In 2021, two researchers from the Faculty of Pharmacy initiated Art Meets Science in Helsinki: Dr Virpi Talman and Dr Qasim Majid. Their colleagueship started at Imperial College London, England and it continues to flourish at the University of Helsinki. Below you can read it in their words, how it all started:

Qasim: Science has the power and potential to address many of the challenges facing humanity over the next century. However, as society becomes ever more polarised, the benefits of scientific research are marginalised. I have therefore been a long-standing advocate of imparting our research with non-scientists and encouraging spirited discourse about my own research and scientific practices at large. I believe art to be an excellent medium for this endeavour as it has the ability to entice a wide range of audiences, engage them in such conversation, and thereby allow for diverse opinions to be shared. I relocated to Helsinki in 2020 at the height of the pandemic and felt compelled to address the associated disinformation campaign. Upon starting employment at the University of Helsinki, I proposed this project to my boss, Dr Virpi Talman, who shared my enthusiasm for scientific dissemination and similarly wanted to draw on the expertise of the art and scientific communities to achieve this goal.   

Virpi: The first time we talked about this event with Qasim was when we applied for a research grant, and Qasim decided to include this as one of the public outreach activities we could carry out within the project. Although we did not get the funding, we thought that this would be a unique event to organise – something that has not been done in Finland before. We eventually decided to ask the leaders of the faculty if they would like to pursue this as a faculty-wide project, and upon receiving a green light, we decided to go for it (truth be told, not really knowing what we were getting into). For me personally, science and art bring a lot of purpose to my life – I work in science, and I enjoy art in many forms in my free time. I also think that communicating about our research to the public is crucially important, for what is science if it is not made available to everyone? This is especially true in this age of disinformation.  

Our aims

‘Art Meets Science’ is an ambitious, multidisciplinary, public engagement event that, for the first time in Finland, has facilitated collaborations between professional artists and research scientists. Inspired by the diverse and cutting-edge research conducted within the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Pharmacy, these collaborations have yielded bespoke pieces of art that will be displayed at a public exhibition held in Galleria Albert IX between the 6th of April – 23rd April 2022.  

In the age of misinformation, Art Meets Science looks to share the research carried out at the Faculty of Pharmacy in an accessible and intelligible manner with members of the public. By showcasing the science-inspired art generated through these collaborations, we look to stimulate discourse between scientists, artists, and the public, with a view to addressing scientific misconceptions. The exhibition aims to highlight talented artists, who are interested in science, to the University of Helsinki alumni, stakeholders and public. Further, we aim to inspire the next generation of scientists and artists, particularly those from underrepresented groups, by challenging preconceived perceptions surrounding these roles. Moreover, owing to the faculty’s longstanding commitment to sustainability, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of art will contribute to the world’s first professorship in sustainable pharmacy that looks to implement green principles in pharmaceutical teaching and research practices.