June 2010

Almost Science, Always Art

Rorie often creates pieces that move, light up, or spew sparks or steam. He does this not only because he enjoys the engineering challenge but also because it makes the art more “alive.” Kinetic art has “action and reaction to the world around it,” Rorie says. “It gets touched and moved; it wears down.” In a way, the moveable aspect of Rorie’s art is a continuation of the bidirectional communication experiment. Moving parts encourage people to interact with the art, which means that Rorie’s pieces sometimes wear out or break. He doesn’t mind— in fact, he likes to fix them because it gives him something to do at gallery shows.

“The Path Is That Simple”

More by Alan Rorie

• The Almost Scientific website.

• Follow Alan Rorie on Twitter.

For bench scientists who yearn for the freedom of arc welding, Rorie has this advice: find something you love and do it, and soon you’ll get to be it. He expands upon this in two parts. The first is that there isn’t necessarily a formal process for every step of one’s career. “You don’t need to apply,” he says. “If you want be a carpenter, you just go and be a carpenter. The path is that simple.”

The most difficult step may be overcoming one’s self-identification as a scientist, as it was for Rorie. So here’s the second part of his advice, which is more of a pep talk for those who don’t view proficiency with a confocal microscope as a skill that can be translated to another line of work: “Your education as a scientist is deeper and stronger than just the field in which you work.” Rorie notes that while he doesn’t do science anymore, he uses the skills that he learned as a graduate student every day.

Besides, says Rorie, as a scientist, “you are on the cutting edge of knowledge— so why can’t you do anything else that you imagine doing?” 

Leslie W. Chinn is a postdoctoral fellow at the National Cancer Institute.

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