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March 20, 2008

Moleculart combines McGowan networking with art

Networking events are a staple in the business and professional world. No doubt it’s invaluable to have a forum at which colleagues can interact and expand their circle of contacts. But how to avoid the same-old, same-old and give participants a chance to do more than chat and exchange business cards?

The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine is finding success by adding a little art to the mix with its Moleculart project events.

Moleculart organizers have drawn on the wealth of creativity within McGowan’s ranks to feature the work of artists with some connection to the group. Since 2005, selected McGowan scientists and their relatives have displayed two- and three-dimensional art as the centerpiece of the Moleculart gatherings.

McGowan executive director John N. Murphy stated, “Our goal is to promote a scientific gathering and foster networking among investigators in a different environment. Encouraging artistic initiatives inside the McGowan community provides a friendly place for interacting with other colleagues but also stimulating creativity, an essential key for innovative research.”

The events include food, drinks and an opportunity for conversation among participants in a relaxed format. This season, Moleculart organizers have combined the art displays with the McGowan’s distinguished lecture series, which has brought a wider range of attendees to the networking sessions.

The initial combined event in November featured the oil paintings of Ruben Zamora, a research assistant professor in the Department of Surgery, at a reception following the lecture by MIT’s Douglas Lauffenburger.

The next event is set for April 3 with scheduled speaker Karen Hirschi of the Baylor College of Medicine.

Ericka Fink of Pitt’s critical care medicine department will be the featured artist. At Pitt, she conducts research on brain injury in children with cardiac arrest through the Safar Center.

In the first public display of her work, Fink will display photographs she took while exploring Thailand and Nepal in conjunction with a pediatric residency rotation in Thailand.

Each photo has a story, Fink said, making it hard to choose which to select for the exhibit. She intends to have eight or nine framed works on display. While other artists have included electronic submissions that can be rotated on a display screen, she prefers to limit her display to framed “in-person art” that she can discuss with attendees.

“For me as a non-professional photographer, it’s a really great opportunity to get my feet wet” in showing the work publicly, Fink said.

Fink learned about the Moleculart event series at a junior faculty leadership seminar and began attending as a way to keep up with others from the group.

She touts the events as a good way to get to know another facet of the doctors, scientists and nursing professionals from around the University. Combining art with science makes sense, Fink said, noting that many scientists have hidden talents in art and music. “It’s a great complement with medicine,” she said.

Photos from previous events and registration information on the series are available at

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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