JanetJanet Rafner is a 3rd Year Echols Scholar at the University of Virginia majoring in physics and minoring in studio art. She is interested in the transduction of scientific ideas through aesthetic means such as art and design and discusses these relationships in her blog. In school Janet became interested in these disciplines: science fair projects juxtaposed to art and theater classes, and in the summer, science nature camp and volunteering at the visual arts center. Flying lessons allowed her to merge the technical with the experiential. At UVA, Janet developed art that illustrated the standard model of particle physics and studied architecture. She taught art at a summer camp and later helped with public presentation for National Physics Day and interned at the Virginia science museum. In the summer she attended an art history and photography course in Italy and met with demonstration physicists in France. Janet has recently returned from a semester at St. Andrews University where she continued pursuing physics while finding respite in figure drawing and long runs through the Scottish countryside.


Janet’s interest in science + art research at UVA has motivated her to pursue opportunities to bring an aesthetic eye to her physics projects and expand into the domain of demonstration physics. She seeks to cross the boundaries between content makers (scientists) and artists and act as a conduit between the many human interfaces which must come to a cooperate junction in order to reach a successful product. Last year she designed and lead a module in a UVA physics class for middle school girls, employing digital photography to help capture and understand physical phenomena. “Photographing Physics: The Art of the Scientific Image” focused on the topic of standing waves using vibrating Chladni plates. Janet discovered that working to enhance the visual qualities of the photos also led to more distinctive and coherent presentation of the phenomena.  Another project entitled “Interactions with the Missing Mark” sought to artistically illustrate the Standard Model of particle physics.

Standing Waves

Janet works as a content maker (scientist) in two campus physics labs. Professor Edward Egleman’s lab is concerned with the structure and function of macromolecular complexes, both protein-protein and protein-DNA assemblies. To identify images for further computational analysis, she will review electron micrographs that may have captured unusual molecular characteristics. Professor Despina Louca’s condensed matter lab investigates interactions of spin, charge and lattice degrees of freedom in solids. The work seeks to identify and predict unique properties such as magnetoresistance, superconductivity, and metallic glass structures, all of which may have important industrial applications. Janet’s work will focus on a new proposed multiferroic CaFe02 system. In these laboratories she learns transferable skills that are also applicable to technical work in the studio such as operating machinery, building things, electronics, and use of chemicals.  In the summer of 2014, she will be interning with a team of physicists at the University of Orsay SUD who are collaborating with a design studio to develop innovative approaches to illustrating and demonstrating the principles of quantum physics.

Art Sci Comm