Dilemma of the Scientist-Artist

It’s not uncommon for the modern college student to be torn between two vastly different subjects. This isn’t to say that students in the past did not have multiple interests, but with the proliferation of majors and extracurricular activities, today’s students are much more likely to develop a serious interest in what used to be hobbies. If you’re anything like me, then you’re torn between something practical, such as science, and something creative, such as art. It’s actually not surprising, since doing well in science involves having moments of creativity, and doing well in art requires an analytical view of the world and one’s own thoughts. Nevertheless, the “scientist-artist” often feels pressured to choose between these two majors, or pursue one career path over the other. What should one do when he or she is faced with such a dilemma? Consider the following career fields that combine science and art:

Architecture: The traditional choice most people think of when considering a profession that combines science and art. Architects design spaces (that’s more than just buildings!) for people to occupy. Physics and aesthetics are the two main concerns when designing spaces. Materials science and a bit of psychology (how does the space make a person feel? I kid you not) also make their way into the work of an architect. In order for an architect to demonstrate ideas to a client, he or she must create drafts and/or models, depending on what method presents the ideas in the best and most clear way.

Sculpture of Hemoglobin by Julian Voss-Andreae in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
Sculpture of Hemoglobin by Julian Voss-Andreae in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Illustration: Someone had to have created all those diagrams and pictures in your science textbooks. Scientific illustration spans the medical, publishing, and forensic industries. Think of all the places where you’ve seen a drawing or computer animation that either directly or indirectly related to some scientific concept. Illustration is especially important in education. Sometimes scientific illustrators must create a realistic looking image; at other times they must design a schematic diagram to teach a concept.

Scientific Journalism: All those popular science magazines are written for masses of people who are interested in science, but do not need to know all the technicalities and jargon found in scholarly journals. To become a scientific writer, a person should have strong writing skills and the ability to distill scientific concepts from a scientist’s perspective to the public’s perspective. There is not as much creativity in scientific journalism as in other jobs that merge science and art, but it would be an exciting combination for someone who enjoys learning, keeping up to date with the scientific community, and writing stylistically (as opposed to writing formally.)

Photography/Video/Multimedia: Someone had to create all those educational videos on your textbook’s companion website that hardly any of us visit. But all jokes aside, videos play a huge role in connecting the masses to science. I’m not necessarily referring to videos on popular science programs or documentary videos- there are plenty of videos that are essential visual aids in scientific education and are increasingly incorporated into all levels of education. This is a great example of the marriage between science and video.

Art Therapy: This field uses art as a way to diagnose illness and aid in the healing process. Usually an art therapist asks patients to create a work of art, and as the patient is working, the therapist asks questions to help patients express their feelings and problems through their project. Art therapy is especially useful for patients who cannot easily communicate. Art therapists are required to have extensive training in psychology, as well as a license to practice. Art therapy places a greater emphasis on interpreting art and than on creating art.

Music Therapy: Like art, music can be integrated into physical rehabilitation and treatment of neurological disorders. Music therapy can be used in almost all health care professions  in which a person’s well-being is being addressed. A music therapist approaches music in numerous ways, some of which are emotional, aesthetic, physical, and spiritual. He or she brings music experiences, such as singing, songwriting, and improvisation, to the patient. As a result, a patient’s cognitive functioning, motor skills, emotional development, and social skills could improve. To become a music therapist, one must complete a music therapy program approved by the American Music Therapy Association.

Art Conservation and Restoration: This is one of the exclusive production tasks that happens behind the scenes at art museums. Art conservationists acknowledge that art does not last forever, so the goal of art conservation is to condition a work of art (or create conditions for the art) to ensure that  it will last as long as possible. Art restorers work to bring an artwork back to its original condition. Chemistry is likely the most important subject to understand for art conservation and restoration.

This is just a brief list of careers combining art and science; there are many more specialized careers, ranging from the highly technical with minimal artistic to the highly artistic with minimal technical. Obviously, some require extensive education and specialized training, which I cannot go into great detail in one article. Especially in careers that combine art and science, there are many that do not offer a defined career path. Where there’s creativity, there will always be a niche for it. Just remember that you do not need to give up creativity in order to make yourself employable- maybe you can’t rely entirely on your artistic abilities to make a living, but you definitely do not need to exclude art from your life.

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