Meeting of the Minds
Images from Flora Feministica
Carnegie Mellon University 's annual Meeting of the Minds Symposium is an opportunity for undergraduate students of all disciplines to showcase their original research accomplishments.
"When we hold our annual Meeting of the Minds, we're inviting many people from outside our immediate community into our living room, so they can see at a unique individual level what goes on inside these walls every single day," said Stephanie Wallach, assistant vice provost for undergraduate education at CMU. "We're here to celebrate our students' intellectual accomplishments and creativity."
One of those students is Alex de Ronde (BHA'13), whose self-published book, Flora Feministica, combines science, art and photography. His project is a unique example of the interdisciplinary nature of the research presented.
Inspired by an exhibit he saw at CMU's Hunt Institute, de Ronde set out to modernize the Victorian-era book Language of Flowers, which was a small field guide that helped women determine appropriate flowers to gift to friends and family.
Guided by Patricia Maurides, a CMU alumna and School of Art adjunct associate professor, de Ronde was able to combine his passions for science, art and the female form to create a visual representation of flower culture and the Victorian-era female.
"I never experimented with combining science and art and photography before, but I took Professor Maurides' color photography class and she encouraged me to explore this connection," de Ronde said. "She gave me a couple of books to read, which really got me interested in the field, and I ended up producing a lot of photography work that dealt with biology."
For this project, de Ronde had to develop his own techniques of both handcrafting the dresses and taking images of the flowers using a microscope in CMU's Mellon Institute.
Each dress represents a different flower commonly gifted in a bouquet during the time period. In addition, these hand-made dresses resemble a paper doll, a common children's toy in the 1800s.
"I felt as though pairing the dress with the biological imagery, which resembles the intricate textiles seen in Victorian fashion, gave the impression of an up-close look of the fabric of the dress," he explained.
De Ronde, who will receive a bachelor's of humanities and arts (BHA) in Communication Design and Decision Sciences, is preparing for a career in advertising.
"I love CMU. When I was looking at colleges I felt I had to sacrifice either my artistic or academic endeavors. CMU is the only top ranked university in the world that can offer a degree in humanities and the arts. Having the ability to take studio classes and academic classes is really amazing. It stimulates my research," said de Ronde.
"I am continually impressed by the originality of Alex's ideas and sincere interest in exploring biological visualization," Maurides said. "Alex recognizes that the scanning electron microscope is not only a tool for scientists, but an inspiring research tool for artists and designers. Alex's Flora Feministica imagery is stunning."
Sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research (URO), today's Meeting of the Minds Symposium hosts more than 450 students who will present their research through posters, oral presentations, DVDs, live performances, demonstrations and art installations.
The Meeting of the Minds Symposium also includes a competition segment that awards cash prizes provided by university organizations, departments or schools, as well as individuals and corporations. An example includes the Toyota Ideas for Good Scholars award, which was created to encourage learning and investigation in green ideas and technology to improve the lives of people worldwide.