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Art under the microscope

October 17, 2017

'Sculpting Science' exhibit — inspired by microscopic images of fungi, termite guts and sugar — opens Oct. 26 downtown

Exploration. Creative observation. Removing the limits of conventional thinking.

These are the words of Arizona State University art students exercising their creative minds as part of “Sculpting Science,” a breathtaking art exhibit with incredible ceramic sculptures, mixed media and drawings influenced by microscopic nature.

In its second showing, 18 artists and nine scientists have paired up to examine the world around us in a whole new way. Undergraduate and graduate students with the School of Art and scientists with the School of Life Sciences explored a variety of subjects under the microscope to find inspiration for new artwork based on their experiences seeing the microscopic world.

“One of the exciting things about this project is that it’s innovative and unexpected — something ASU excels at,” said Robby Roberson, a School of Life Sciences associate professor and microbiologist who studies fungi. “There is a really interesting world that can be seen only through microscopy. The images of something as ordinary as a mushroom can be incredibly exciting when seen under extreme magnification.”

Termite guts, fungi, plants, bones, insects and cells — even sugar and pomegranates — were some of the subjects studied. For the artists, the microscopic images can be invigorating.

“Art students gain valuable skills, such as integrating content into their artwork and interpreting information into visual research, by immersing themselves in science for artistic inspiration,” said Susan Beiner, a ceramics associate professor at the School of Art.

“This rewarding project has grown this year, as students worked directly with a group of life sciences professors in their labs. The students also investigated how their visual interpretations can embody specific ideas of scientific research,” she added.

The “Sculpting Science” exhibit expanded this year to include mixed media and drawings, along with ceramics pieces. Twenty-four fascinating art pieces are slated to be on exhibit, as well as many high-resolution microscopy images.

Amanda Collins, a recent graduate from the ASU ceramics program, said art and science have much in common.

“They both look at the world through new and different perspectives. In many ways, an artist is trying to widen the views of their audience to think and feel in a new or different way, while science strives to widen our understanding of the world around us using new and different means. Both bring to the forefront questions that have not been answered before and seek to enlighten,” Collins shared in her artist profile.

“Sculpting Science” sprang to life in 2014 when professors Roberson and Beiner began a collaborative study examining ceramic surfaces at high resolution by using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Their hope was that these interactions would result in ongoing exchanges of positive and synergistic ideas, creativity and knowledge to produce provocative works of art.

This artwork would then be on display for the ASU and surrounding communities. Another goal was to enrich the lives of ASU students, faculty and the greater community.  Funding for the program is provided by the School of Life Sciences and the School of Art.

'Sculpting Science' exhibit

When: Grand opening 6–9 p.m. Oct. 26. Normal exhibit hours, noon–5 p.m. Oct. 26–28, Nov. 2–4, Nov. 9–11 and Nov. 16–18; First Fridays hours 6–9 p.m. Nov. 3.

Where: Step Gallery at Grant Street Studios, 602 E. Grant St., Phoenix.

Admission: Free.

Details: Learn more here. Earn rewards points by checking in at "Sculpting Science" with your ASU Sun Devil Rewards app, which can be downloaded from Google Play or the Apple App Store.

The following School of Life Sciences faculty and staff shared their labs as part of this project: Robby Roberson, Page Baluch, Nico Franz, Brian Smith, Jason Newbern, Julie Stromberg, Charlotte Johnston, Gillian Gile, Liz Makings and Heather Hutchison Scott. "Sculpting Science" features artwork created by the following ASU graduate and undergraduate students: Colleen Cahill, Nathan Clark, Amanda Collins, Haley Farley, Stephanie Gonzalez, Laura Korch Bailey, Nicole Kudela, Brandi Lee Cooper, Mary Maghee, Tamaki Matsumoto, Hans Miles, Amanda Ohnmacht, Jolleen Oltmanns, Jessica Palomo, Chris Phillips, Ross Quesnell, Emily Ritter, Nicole Davy and Gayle Timmerman.

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Weinstein scandal creates dialogue on workplace harassment

October 17, 2017

ASU gender studies professor on whether this is a tipping point, and what individuals and companies need to do

As the Harvey Weinstein scandal continues to dominate national headlines and new survivors come forward on a near daily basis, some believe the media attention on this case is a tipping point.

No doubt the scandal has caused many CEOs, supervisors and human-resources personnel throughout the country to review their policies and talk with employees about sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace. So are the times changing?

ASU Now recently spoke with Alesha Durfee, an associate professor of women and gender studies in Arizona State University’s SchoolDurfee is also a faculty affiliate in justice studies and the School of Social Work. of Social Transformation, to get her take.

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ASU Professor Alesha Durfee

Question: The Weinstein scandal has led many to believe this will not only have a domino effect in Hollywood regarding reporting sexual harassment, but the American workplace in general. Do you believe that to be the case?

Answer: I absolutely agree that there will be a domino effect on the workplace in general. So many people are coming forward with their stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault under the hashtag #metoo started by Alyssa Milano on Sunday. There has been such a cascade of stories that I think the problem of sexual harassment and sexual assault is going to be too large for most workplaces to ignore.

Q: To give some context, what’s the distinction between sexual harassment, assault and predatory behavior, which has often been attributed to Weinstein?

A: While there are substantial differences between these three forms of violence, I think it’s important to first recognize the common thread between them. Sexual harassment, sexual assault and predatory behavior are all on a spectrum of behavior where one person (in these cases, usually a man) attempts to gain power and control over another person (in these cases, usually a woman). Most people believe that these are motivated by sexual desire, and often people excuse these behaviors in ways that frame them as sexually motivated. However, these are all motivated by a desire to have power and control over another person.

Legally, sexual assault in Arizona is either sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact without consent. However, many advocates would include a wider range of coerced behaviors, including attempted rape, attempted penetration, and unwanted sexual contact such as grabbing or fondling.

Sexual harassment consists of unwelcome sexual comments or behaviors — these can either be specific to the person (i.e., about them) or they can be gender-based (i.e., remarks about women or men in general). When repeated over time by one or more individuals, they can create a hostile work or school environment that can adversely impact the survivor’s ability to work or go to school. Sexual harassment, when perpetuated by individuals in power, can often be linked to job offers, the continuation of employment or promotions. There are two types of sexual harassment — “hostile work environment”, where the sexual harassment makes it extremely difficult for the survivor to go to work or school, and “quid pro quo”, where one’s continued employment or possibilities of promotion are linked to submitting to the sexual demands of the harasser.

Predatory behavior refers to the systemic invocation of power by a “predator” over others to get them to comply with the predator’s demands. While predatory behavior may be sexual, it may also involve physical, financial, verbal, psychological or emotional abuse, as well as stalking in person or via technology.

Q: Weinstein’s behavior continued for decades because of his ability to convince others it would advance their careers if they complied, and damage their careers if they didn’t. Is there a parallel here in regards to common workplaces?

A: Yes, there definitely is a parallel to more common workplaces — when any institution or organization has supervisors or bosses who are not accountable to others for their behavior, that institution has created an environment where a sexual predator could operate without constraint. It is unhealthy to have a workplace where supervisors and bosses are not held accountable for their behaviors and are not routinely evaluated by those that they are in charge of (or by external evaluations or reviews).

Weinstein also had power in a wide range of realms — not only could he threaten women who did not comply with his inappropriate and predatory sexual requests, he could actually follow through with those consequences without having to explain his decisions to anyone. I would strongly argue that companies review their policies and hierarchies to make sure that there is greater accountability of supervisors, bosses, etc. for their decisions and actions.

Q: At ASU, there are policies in place for reporting this type of behavior. What advice would you give to companies that don’t have policies, and what should they do?

A: I applaud all that ASU has done to combat sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. I know a lot of faculty, staff, and administrators have worked very hard to create structures of accountability where people can report violations, and resources for survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault. 

For survivors and witnesses whose workplaces do not have these structures or provide these resources, I would highly recommend (1) advocating for the adoption of these types of structures and resources in their workplace and/or (2) compiling a list of both legal and community-based resources that survivors and witnesses can utilize if needed. The U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission ( is a good place to start to learn about your employment rights. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network,, 1-800-656-4673) is an excellent organization that provides information and resources to survivors of sexual violence.

Top photo: Branches of the U.S. military, as well as many private companies, have instituted training on workplace harassment and assault. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army