UChicago’s Arts|Science Initiative awards five graduate collaboration grants

The University of Chicago’s Arts|Science Initiative has awarded five Graduate Collaboration Grants with project topics ranging from “fiction addiction” to compositions modeled on melting glaciers to a physiological assessment of emotion during artistic performance. 


The Arts|Science Graduate Collaboration Grants are intended to encourage inde­pendent trans-disciplinary research between students in the arts and the sciences. Each group consists of two or more graduate students, with at least one in the arts and one in the sciences, who work together over the course of two quarters to investigate a subject from the perspectives offered by their disciplines.

Funding for the Arts|Science Graduate Collaboration grants comes from the Office of the Vice President for Research and for National Laboratories and the Institute for Molecular Engineering. The form of the project is open-ended, and in past years grantees have included a data-driven digital history of nostalgia, sound sculptures and video installations, and even a new instrument called the Chromochord  that employs protein nanotechnology.

The Arts|Science Initative connects artistic practice with scientific inquiry through student and faculty grants, events and exhibitions, and cultivating dialogue to explore new modes of production and investigation around common themes. This UChicago Arts initiative was established in partnership with the Office of the Provost, with the support of the Institute for Molecular Engineering, the Biological and Physical Sciences divisions, the Division of the Humanities, and the Office of the Vice President for Research and for National Laboratories.

Graduate Collaboration Grant 2013-14 projects, recipients and faculty advisors:

Breaking Ice is an environment-inspired project that will culminate in a multimedia composition, incorporating live cello, interactive electronics and video projection. The project will speak to the increasing rate of melting and disintegrating glaciers by creating a laboratory-controlled model of the much larger-scale phenomenon. Iddo Aharony (Department of Music), Ivo Peters (Department of Physics), and Qin Xu (Department of Physics) will examine ice as it is crushed and melted, and the scientific data and footage obtained will then be transformed into the core material and inspiration for the musical/visual piece. 

Faculty Advisors:  Heinrich Jaeger, professor in physics and the James Franke Institute, and Howard Sandroff, director of the Computer Music Studio and senior lecturer in music.

"Shaping the Mind’s Stage" will examine how human experience shapes the way people perceive the world. The project will address this question through a live installation of a piece of chamber music performed by live vocalists. Turning an opera into an experiment and using audience members as subjects, the student collaborators, Tom Gijssels (Department of Psychology) and Debra Dado (Department of Visual Arts), will study the responses to particular kinesthetic staging choices. This study will provide an opportunity to examine the human mind in the creative wild and investigate how psychological findings can inform an audience’s perceptions of the artistic process.

Faculty advisors: Daniel Casasanto, assistant professor in psychology and Katherine Desjardins, lecturer in visual arts.

"Hearts Beating as One: Emotions and Physiology during Artistic Performance" will investigate how people infer the emotions of others, with particular attention to the role that empathic accuracy has in creating a compelling artistic performance. In a set of experiments, the researchers will measure the physiology of actors and musicians while they simulate positive and negative emotions during a performance. The emotional and physiological reactions of audience members also will be recorded and compared to those of the performers to assess the emotional experiences of each group. The project team, the largest yet awarded a grant, is wide-ranging in discipline and includes Heather Harden and Carly Kontra (Cognitive Psychology), Elizabeth Necka (Social Psychology), Patrick Fitzgibbon (Music Theory), Greg Poljacik and Sara Arnold (Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences) and Elizabeth Hopkins (Music History).

Faculty advisors: Greg Norman, assistant professor in psychology; Berthold Hoeckner, associate professor in music, and Howard Sandroff, director of the Computer Music Studio and senior lecturer in music.

"NeuroSonics: Rhythmic Stimulation of Epileptic Cell Cultures," a project of Andrew McManus (Department of Music), Tahra Eissa (Department of Neurobiology) and Albert Wilderman (Computational Neuroscience), will explore a feedback loop between epileptic neurological processes and music with the objective to assess how rhythms affect pathological, neurological processes and neural plasticity, how the data from these processes might be translated back into musical sound, and what the musical results reveal about the original processes. The results of the experiment will provide a potential solution for the ongoing challenge of “humanizing” computer-generated sounds as well as provide insight on how a developing, epileptic neural network interacts with rhythmic stimulation.

Faculty advisors: Wim van Drongelen, professor in neurology; Howard Sandroff, director of the Computer Music Studio and senior lecturer in music.

"Fiction Addiction" will examine the conceptual overlap of the notion of “bingeing” on media intake and other modes of addiction. In this project, Bill Hutchison (Department of English) and Anya Bershad (Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience) will question how humans’ neurobiological brains and literary minds interact with “addictive” works of fiction. Through discussions with scholars from the humanities and sciences and by undertaking original research and investigations, the researchers hope to better understand humans’ compulsive relationship with fictional worlds. They will present their research via a website and a videotaped documentary.

Faculty advisors: Harriet de Wit, professor in psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience; and Maud Ellmann, professor in English Language and Literature.