What happens when you mix neuroscience with Andy Warhol’s “Marilyn Diptych” and “Eight Elvises”?

Dana Simmons, an art-loving neuroscientist at the University of Chicago, had an opportunity to answer that very question.

With $500,000 worth of sophisticated lab equipment, and Mr. Warhol as a source of inspiration, Dana injected living neurons with special dyes using an incredibly difficult procedure to create artworks that encourages other scientists to explore their creative side.

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“Just as Andy Warhol wanted to show that there is art in everyday objects, I wanted to show that there is art in the brain,” said Dana.

While most brain art are hand-drawn or digitally created, Dana’s approach is unique because she uses actual Purkinje cells, a special group of neurons that reside at the back of the brain. As a result, Dana’s first-of-its-kind images were recently honored when she became a recipient of New England Biolabs Passion in Science Awards®, which recognizes scientists from all over the globe, but not in the traditional sense.

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“The Passion in Science Awards is turning conventional science awards on their heads by showing that science goes beyond just basic research. We often forget that science also has a vibrant culture that parallels the art community, which helps make science more accessible to a wider audience,” said Dana.

All Photos by Dana Simmons

Dana isn’t the first person to receive the Passion in Science Awards for her artistic undertakings. In 2014, Tal Danino from MIT was also a winner for using cancer cells and bacteria to create living tessellated art.

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