The New School prides itself on its design-inspired education, which combines design and social research to consider and solve real-world issues. With the opening of a new set of science wet-labs in the University Center, The New School has made the natural sciences an important part of that strategy.
The university celebrated the newly constructed space and its science programs at its Science Lab Open House in April. Attendees participated in hands-on activities led by faculty across multiple schools, and alumni from The New School’s Interdisciplinary Science program, and fellows from Eugene Lang College science and math program. Staff, faculty, and students painted with living bacteria, visualized color changes based on varying lighting sources, and learned about gene-environment interactions as they relate to ecosystem resilience, global health disparities, genetic testing and the creation of bioart.
“In our new science wet-labs, we’re exploring the ways that science, math, art and design can intersect in meaningful ways to promote social change,” says Katayoun Chamany, associate professor of biology and the faculty member who oversaw the launch of the lab spaces.
Housed on the sixth floor of the University Center, the new labs create additional space for interdisciplinary science study on campus. Since opening in summer 2014, faculty members at The New School have worked collaboratively with lab staff to develop a number of “drop and load” lab modules that have been introduced in courses offered by Fashion and Design and Technology. The spaces have also allowed faculty in Environmental Studies and Interdisciplinary Science to enhance and expand their current offerings using new equipment.
In addition, pilot lab sessions to support citizen science projects are also underway. For example, students in the University Lecture course Liquid Cities partnered with the nonprofit The River Project to test local waterways for sewage. Similar testing methods will be used in the Water Quality Lab course offered by the Interdisciplinary Science program, and discussions are underway to determine if this lab activity can be scaled up for the Sustainable Systems course which serves 900 freshman at Parsons School of Design.
“The University Center lab spaces, which more than doubles the current lab teaching space at The New School, were designed to offer more flexibility to faculty embracing the university-wide curricular focus on sustainability,” Chamany says.
The opening of the new Science Lab is in line with national calls to bolster Science Technology Engineering Art Math and Design (STEAMD) curriculum development. Lang Dean Stephanie Browner believes that the Interdisciplinary Science program is a pioneer in this regard, and the college’s partnership with Imagine Science Films and the success of the Living Paint Workshop hosted on campus during the Imagine Science Film Festival is “a testament to the growing interest in this area,” Chamany says.
“Cross-fertilization in the arts, design, and sciences,” she adds, “is vital for promoting innovation and socially just practices.