Engineering News

Artist-at-Large Dario Robleto Kicks Off Dean’s Seminar Series October 14

Northwestern Engineering’s first Artist-at-Large returns to campus to continue conversations on ethics and humanities

For the past academic year, Dario Robleto, a transdisciplinary artist, has focused on creating a meaningful dialogue with members of Northwestern’s Center for Synthetic Biology.

With science and engineering proceeding at a pace that far outruns known ethical standards, Artist-at-Large Dario Robleto kicks off the Dean’s Seminar Series on October 14, as he returns to campus to continue conversations surrounding the intersection of the humanities and engineering.

Launched three years ago, Northwestern Engineering’s unique Artist-at-Large program works in partnership with the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art to embed an artist within the McCormick School of Engineering. It is part of the continuing Art + Engineering initiative and a part of the whole-brain philosophy at Northwestern Engineering.

For the past academic year, Robleto, a transdisciplinary artist, has focused on creating a meaningful dialogue with members of Northwestern’s Center for Synthetic Biology, a multidisciplinary center which uses tools and concepts from physics, engineering, and computer science to build new biological systems.

“Artists now are almost provocateurs,” said Julio M. Ottino, dean of Northwestern Engineering. “They are people who expand your thinking, inform, reveal, provoke.”

Lisa Corrin, director of the Block Museum, added that artists have been “already asking a lot of the same questions that scientists and engineers were asking, but coming at these questions from very different ways.”

As work in synthetic biology pushes new boundaries, its potential to stretch across cultural and social dynamics as well as ethical norms makes the need for conversations about the impact — both anticipated and unexpected — imperative and urgent.

“We can't get off the hook with this down the road. It's right now and we need to talk about it,” Robleto said.

“Every interaction with Dario has left me more excited about what he does and what I do,” said Josh Leonard, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering and a member of the center. “What those conversations have done is to give pause to focus on what we really think is important.”

Robleto’s talk, “The Art of Scientific Storytelling,” will be held at the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center in the Hive Studio, room 2-350, at 4 p.m.