Student researchers express creativity through chalk art project

Students participating in Chalk Art Symposium
The Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship presented its first Chalk Art Symposium which gave student researchers a chance to display their artistic side.
Image credit - Valerie Hendrickson

The plaza at the northeast corner of the Mary Idema Pew Library became a canvas of concrete for student researchers, exhibiting their creative and analytical skills.

The Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship presented its first Chalk Art Symposium on September 30, giving those who have participated in Student Scholars Day the chance to express their artistic side. 

Susan Mendoza, director of the Center for Undergraduate Scholar Engagement, said she got the idea from a colleague at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Students who’ve spent hours in a lab or library need to find a new way to communicate their research, Mendoza said. 

“Students don’t always realize that science and art are dependent on each other,” Mendoza said. “This is a way for students to share what they are doing in a non-traditional way and in a way that is disruptive to their own preconceived notions about what scientific communication is.”

Student drawing during Chalk Art Symposium
Jacob Yingling sketches a yellow perch — the focus of his student research.
Image credit - Valerie Hendrickson
Student drawing during Chalk Art Symposium
Grace Miller, a cell and molecular biology major, takes a break from her sketch during the Chalk Art Symposium.
Image credit - Valerie Hendrickson

Grace Miller, a cell and molecular biology major, said she wasn’t sure how to begin her design, but approached it with one person in mind.

“When things get to a microscopic level, people just don’t think about how to explain it,” Miller said. “So, how would I explain it to my little brother who’s 3 years old? 

“I didn’t think about all the different aspects of my work that could be so visual. I’m so deep into it that I never took a step back and thought about it like that.”

Students may not have had an artistic background and that was fine, said Courtney Sherwood, CUSE’s program coordinator. She had the ideal person to guide them.

Sherwood was looking for someone who could give artistic direction to students, and found her after her children helped at a summer camp through Allendale Public Schools. Her daughter mentioned Allendale Elementary art teacher and Grand Valley graduate Emily Miller, ’14, ’20.

Sherwood said the symposium will also serve as a teaser to the annual Undergraduate Research Fair. This year’s fair is scheduled from 5-7 p.m., October 4, in the Kirkhof Center, room 2250. More than 30 departments will be attending the fair to encourage students to participate in research and creative projects.


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