Keri Kukral, founder of Raw Science TV, speaking at Inspirefest 2017. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

‘Art and science are not separate, they are beautifully intertwined’

30 Aug 2017

How does a ballerina become a biomedical engineer? By fusing art with science to create a multidimensional environment.

“The greatest possibilities exist at the intersection of multiple perspectives.”

This is according to Keri Kukral, founder of Raw Science TV, who spoke at Inspirefest 2017 in July about the importance of multidimensionality, and how it can expand our minds and open us up to new industries.

Growing up in a small town in Indiana, Kukral said her outlook was somewhat limited at an early age. “I didn’t know any other view of the world. I only had one perspective.”

She became fascinated by ballet, which led to a scholarship and a professional stint on stage. When this career was cut short, she struggled to adjust to her new identity. She was a dancer, that was all she knew. What next?

From ballerina to biomedical engineer

Despite her suggestion that her perspective was geared solely towards the performing arts, it seems clear that Kukral was already entertaining other viewpoints and interests, namely science. “When I was soaking tired muscles after performances, I would read the works of Stephen Jay Gould, Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, Stephen Hawking,” she said.

“The beauty of the universe was as magical to me as any incredible work of art, and the interplay of elements as awe-inspiring.”

Kukral soon became enthralled with the complex design of the human body.

“What machinery allowed us to think a thought in our brain, and animate our limbs? What are the pipes and wires and systems that allow us to live, heal ourselves, replicate?”

Kukral entered into an engineering programme at Purdue University and earned her degree in biomedical engineering, as well as some awards along the way.

She enjoyed a decade in this field, working on such innovations as an implanted continuous blood glucose monitor and an artificial pancreas created from stem cells.

Inspired by visionaries such as Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs, Kukral entered a Caltech-Idealab pitch competition to create a science media company to “put science and technology on centre stage”, and thus, Raw Science TV was born.

The marriage of two worlds

Adopting a new identity is no small feat, but Kukral offered a few words of wisdom: “It doesn’t matter where you’re starting, it just matters that you start.

“We never truly know what we’re capable of until we take the time and the steps to find out.”

This is the crux of Kukral’s mantra: that we need to be open to alternate ideas, as they may indeed intertwine to complement one another and create even greater possibilities.

“To me, art and science was creation, and the interplay of dynamic elements.

“Through this multidimensionality, everyone is invited to the table.”

Kukral urged the audience to explore what multidimensionality means to them, and how they can interweave various strands into their own lives to broaden their horizons.

“What would we have missed out on if Steve Jobs had not taken a class in calligraphy, or studied Zen Buddhism, or acquired Pixar?”

Quoting Jobs himself, she concluded: “Technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with liberal arts and married with the humanities that yields us the results that make our hearts sing.”

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Ultra Early Bird Tickets for Inspirefest 2018 are on sale now!

Shelly Madden
By Shelly Madden

Shelly Madden joined Silicon Republic as sub-editor in September 2016 to realise her lifelong dream of being a professional nitpicker. Before this, she worked as a freelance writer for various newspapers and made coffee for people who use the word ‘expresso’. She enjoys red wine on rare occasions, such as weekdays and weekends.

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