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The Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous (LASER) is Leonardo/ISAST's global salon series featuring evening gatherings that bring artists and scientists together for informal presentations and conversations with an audience. Now, ASU will host a LASER series in Tempe, AZ that will join over 40 other LASER series around the world! 

Organizer: Pam Winfrey

Leonardo/ISAST LASER Talks

Upcoming LASER Talks

MARCH LASER: Material Healing Fabrics, materials, and substances changing our concept of remedy

Wednesday, March 30, 9:00 - 10:30am Arizona Time


Panelists: Laura Splan, Dr. Galina Mihaleva, and Gissel Marquez Alcaraz

Join us  at 9 am (AZ time) on Wednesday, March 30, when we explore how fashion, textiles, and the emerging properties of kombucha are changing our understanding of healing, cooperation, and well-being.

We all know how it feels to be in clothing that makes us feel good. The whisper of silk against our skin, the coziness of our favorite cotton sweatpants, the scarf that swaddles our neck just so.  Now, artists and scientists are exploring textiles, fashion, and base materials as not only materials that passively make us feel better but as active participants in our health. Artists Galina Mihaleva and Laura Splan and biologist Gissel Marquez Alcaraz have been developing vests that can detect breast cancer, exploring materials that have cooperative properties, and creating collaborative textiles art in remote encounters with strangers during the pandemic. Textiles are no longer just a matter of fashion but they are fashioning our health.

Bring your favorite piece of clothing or textiles that make you feel better or add in healing and be prepared to give us a one sentence explanation about why.

Panelist biographies:

Laura Splan is a transdisciplinary artist working at the intersections of science, technology, and culture. Her research-driven projects connect hidden artifacts of biotechnology to everyday lives through tactile experiences and sensory encounters. Her work invites an investigation of detail, calling into question how things are made and what they are made of. Using a range of traditional and new media techniques, she reconsiders perceptions and representations of the body to examine cultural constructions of self and other that are often in conflict with our biomedical realities. Her conceptually based projects destabilize notions of the presence and absence of bodies, evoking the mutability of categories that delineate their status. Material and process serve as conceptual underpinnings and catalysts for speculation within the narrative implications of the work.

Her artworks have been commissioned by the Centers for Disease Control Foundation and the 2021 Bruges Triennial with the timely theme of “trauma”. Her work has been included in exhibitions at Museum of Arts & Design and New York Hall of Science and is represented in the collections of the Thoma Art Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and the NYU Langone Health Art Collection. Her lace virus series, “Doilies” (2004), was recently exhibited in a former medieval hospital that served plague victims in Bruges, Belgium in the thirteenth century. Reviews and articles including her work have appeared in The New York Times, Wired, Discover, designboom, American Craft, and Fiberarts. Publications featuring her artwork include “The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art & Architecture” and “Manufactured: The Conspicuous Transformation of Everyday Objects”. Splan’s research and residencies have been supported by the Jerome Foundation, uCity Science Center, and the Knight Foundation. Her research as a member of the New Museum’s NEW INC Creative Science incubator included collaborations with scientists to interrogate interspecies entanglements in the contemporary biotechnological landscape. Her recent exhibitions featuring molecular animations and sculptures made with artifacts of the laboratory include a large-scale immersive installation in the Brooklyn Army Terminal. Her current solo exhibition at the Tang Teaching Museum, “Rhapsody for an Expanded Biotechnological Apparatus”, engages viewers with the tactile materiality of animals who produce antibodies for human vaccines.

Galina Mihaleva, Ph.D., is a costume, fashion, and wearable technology designer, and artist. She is an Associate Professor at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Arizona State University, where she teaches Fashion and Wearable Technology and Materials Matters: Materials and Techniques.

Prior to joining ASU, Galina directed the Lab of Open Matters LOOM and taught at the school of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University for eight years, focusing on interdisciplinary research and blurring the lines between fashion, engineering and material science. Her artistic practice and academic research deal primarily with the dialogue between body and dress, driven by the idea of having both a physical and a psychological relationship with a garment as a responsive clothing - wearable technology.

She is the founder of Galina Couture where her team develops exclusive collections of one-of-a-kind designs. Her art and design work has been shown in festivals, galleries and museums across the United States, Asia, Central and South America, Africa and Europe. Mihaleva’s artistic work has been exhibited in leading international venues, including the Art and Science museum in Marina Bay Sands in Singapore; the National Museum of Singapore; the Nelsen Museum of WOW in New Zealand; Textiles Museum in Gent, Belgium; the Phoenix Art Museum; Scottsdale Museum Of Contemporary Art; in Berlin, Germany for BEYOND; Morocco for the Smart Tiles Salon; Look Forward Fashion Tech Festival at the Gaite Lyrique venue in Paris, France; Cannes, France; Sochi, Russia, for Podium; Ecuador for Pielle Moda; Venice for the Venice Film Festival; Istanbul; Tokyo; Argentina; and Egypt. In 2007, she was nominated for the best design award at Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum. Galina received the Rumi award in the USA and first place at the Tiffany’s Paris Fashion Week in 2016. She has also been a finalist for the 70th Cannes Film Festival Red Carpet, Cannes, France, and for three years at the World of Wearable Art in New Zealand.

Galina holds a master’s degree in Fashion and Textile from the Academy of Fine Arts, Sofia, Bulgaria (1992) and a Ph.D.in smart textiles from the Academy of Fine Arts, Sofia, Bulgaria and Gent University, Belgium (2014).

Beyond in-depth analysis of cultural values, she combines traditional textile methods and techniques while developing and using new radical materials and innovative technologies.

Unbounded by the old rules, Galina now offers her work as a testimony to the power of beauty and expression, and to the transcendent human spirit. She regards her works as being timeless.



Gissel Marquez Alcaraz is an Evolutionary Biology PhD student working with Dr. Carlo Maley and Dr. Athena Aktipis at Arizona State University. Gissel has been studying kombucha and the bacterial and yeast interactions that take place within the system for nearly four years. Although Gissel continues her research with kombucha, she is in charge of other projects looking at how the microbiome affects cancer progression and cancer across multiple species.

Recently, Gissel has started working with Dr. Galina Mihaleva attempting to make a biodegradable material using Kombucha. Together they plan on putting the biofilm that grows in kombucha through experiments to make it, water resistant, durable and accessible for making biodegradable textiles and materials.

Previous LASER Talks


See below for previous LASER topics, scheduled events, and videos.


OCTOBER LASER: The Need to Know

Tuesday, Oct 19, 9:00 - 10:30am Arizona Time

Panelists: Dr. Suzy O'Hara, Arvind Varsani, and Kristy Roschke

As always, we have existed within a framework of small biological things that impact us as humans. But now, it feels as though we are thrust into a need-to-know situation and many people feel as though they are being fed tainted or half of the information. Why are some people feeling that they are being lied to or that the information they are receiving is incorrect in some way? Why do we need to understand these very small biological entities that reside within us?  From our more intimate world of friends and family to our global communities, we are impacted by the small biological systems within and between all of us. What is the difference between cells and viruses? Why are we in this pandemic predicament and how can we avoid more in the future? And how does art inform and elucidate these questions?

Panelist biographies:

Dr Suzy O’Hara is a Research Fellow at University of Sunderland and the Project Curator for One Cell At A Time, a public engagement project for The Human Cell Atlas. The Human Cell Atlas is a pioneering, multidisciplinary, global research project that aims to map every cell type in the human body, from development to old age. This will transform our understanding of biology and disease, and could revolutionize the way illnesses are diagnosed and treated. A truly global initiative, there are now more than 2,000 HCA members, from 75 countries around the world. https://www.humancellatlas.org. One Cell At A Time brings together art, science and diverse local communities to explore the science of the Human Cell Atlas, as well as attitudes and concerns surrounding public perception of tissue and data donation for research in new and creative ways. 

Arvind Varsani is a molecular virologist who works across ecosystems from plants to animals and from the tropics to the Antarctic. His research uses a combination of traditional virology, microscopy (including transmission electron microscopy), molecular and cellular biology techniques in conjunction with modern sequencing techniques, synthetic biology and bioinformatics to characterize viruses and understand their dynamics.

Kristy Roschke is the managing director of the News Co/Lab at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. The Lab works to advance media literacy through journalism, education and technology. Through existing research and partnerships, the Lab experiments with new ways to increase public understanding of how news works - helping people better find, understand, act upon and create credible news and information, and to share it with integrity.

MAY LASER: Solving Wicked Problems

Thursday, May 13, 10:00 - 11:00am Arizona Time (find your time zone here)

Panelists: Julian Bleecker, Jonathon Keats, and Stacey Kuznetsov

The world seems full of intractable problems: pandemics, global warming, racial injustice, economic upheaval. These are huge problems that will require thinkers who are able to consider  these topics expansively -— thinkers who take risks, make unusual connections, thinkers who think inside of the box because so many others struggle to think outside of it. Today we are celebrating three people who are hard to put labels on. Yes, they are artists, but they are also philosophers, engineers, designers, technologists. Ultimately, they are problem solvers. Jonathon Keats, Stacey Kuznetsov, and Julian Bleecker will be talking about their work and the innovative ways that they are approaching the world’s problems.

Panelist biographies:

Jonathon Keats:  Acclaimed as a “poet of ideas” by The New Yorker and a “multimedia philosopher-prophet” by The Atlantic, Jonathon Keats is an artist, writer and experimental philosopher based in the United States and Europe. His conceptually-driven transdisciplinary projects explore all aspects of society, adapting methods from the sciences and the humanities. He has exhibited and lectured at dozens of institutions worldwide, from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to Stanford University to the Triennale di Milano, and from SXSW to CERN to UNESCO. He is the author of six books on subjects ranging from science and technology to art and design – most recently You Belong to the Universe: Buckminster Fuller and the Future, published by Oxford University Press – and is the author of a weekly online art and design column for Forbes. He has been an artist-in residence at the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics, UC Berkeley's Sagehen Creek Field Station, and the LACMA Art + Technology Lab, a Black Mountain College Legacy Fellow at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, an Imaginary Fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, and a Research Fellow at the Nevada Museum of Art's Center for Art + Environment. He is currently a Polar Lab artist at the Anchorage Museum, a Flux Exchange Artist at Flux Projects, a visiting scholar at San Jose State University’s CADRE Laboratory for New Media, a research associate at the University of Arizona’s Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill, and an artist-in-residence at both the SETI Institute and UC San Francisco’s Memory and Aging Center. He serves as co-director and principal philosopher for Earth Law Center’s Interspecies Technology Transfer Consortium and co-director of the Alien Hybrid Garden at Arizona State University, and he is the founding director and curator of the Museum of Future History in partnership with Museum of Tomorrow International. A monograph about his art, Thought Experiments, is forthcoming from Hirmer Verlag. He is represented by Modernism Gallery in San Francisco.

Stacey Kuznetsov is an assistant professor at the School of Arts, Media, and Engineering at Arizona State University. Her research explores the role of technology in collective efforts to construct knowledge and address issues. Her work applies HCI (Human Computer Interaction) and design methods to the study of current and future systems for science and technology. She develops low-cost tools and bottom-up design methods for citizen science, community activism, and (DIY)biology. She holds a doctorate from the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Earlier, she worked for a small startup company (Google). She received a bachelor's from New York University with a double major in Philosophy and Computer Science.

Julian Bleecker (PhD UCSC, MSEng UW, BSEE Cornell University) is a designer, engineer, researcher, product designer and futurist. He is the Founder of the Near Future Laboratory, a discovery-based design practice that helps its clients analyze imminent futures to guide strategic and tactical decision making. He has been a professor at the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, and a designer-engineer at Nokia’s Advanced Design Studio, and consultant on future-facing thorny problems for many clients and partners including Google, Ikea, Nokia, Facebook, Nike, Warner Bros, Boeing, Electronic Arts and many, many others over his 30 year professional career. Julian has a Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University, a Masters Degree in Engineering (Interface Design, Virtual Reality) from the University of Washington. He did his doctoral work on the intersection of design, science-fiction and technology which formed the bedrock for defining Design Fiction, the Near Future Laboratory's discovery-based approach for revealing, analyzing, and creating futures. Julian is also Founder and CEO at Omata, Inc., a design-forward product company.

APRIL LASER: “Future IDs at Alcatraz - Transforming Lives in Immediate and Necessary Ways”

Wednesday, Apr 21, 5:00 - 6:00pm Arizona Time (find your time zone here)

Panelists: Gregory Sale, Dr. Luis Garcia, Rebecca Jackson, Emiliano Lopez, and Dr. Jacquelyn McCroskey

Join us for a Future IDs conversation with a lead artist, three project collaborators, and a professor of social work to discuss a socially engaged art project, Future IDs at Alcatraz (2018-2019). Explore the intersectionality of and distinctions between art and social work.

Panelist biographies:

Gregory Sale:  Collaborating with individuals and communities on aesthetic responses to social challenges, artist, educator, and advocate, Gregory Sale creates and coordinates large-scale and often long-term public projects. Participants and institutions become creative co-producers focused on collective artistic experiences that identify, address, and transform lives. Specifically, his work engages issues of mass incarceration, illuminating the complexities of race, democracy, and how we care as a society. 

Dr. Jacquelyn McCroskey:  the John Milner Professor of Child Welfare at the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, where she also serves as Co-Director of the Children’s Data Network, a data and research collaborative focused on linkage and analysis of administrative records in partnership with public agencies, philanthropic funders, and community stakeholders.

MARCH LASER: “COVID-19 Reflections of Works-in-Progress

Date: Tuesday, March 23, 3:30PM Arizona Time. (Find your time zone here.)

Nobel Prize winner speaks at ASU LASER talk!

Panelists: Dr. Leland Hartwell (Center Director & Prof., Biodesign Pathfinder Center; Nobel prize winner;) and Diana Ayton-Shenker (CEO, Leonardo ISAST; ASU Prof. of Practice, SFIS & AME)

Join us for a conversation exploring questions that have arisen during the co-created ASU Humanities Lab "ArtScience: COVID Response" and over the past year in considering and experimenting with how to respond to COVID. Selecting from questions posed to or by students during the Lab, as well as those that remain unanswered --or perhaps unasked-- we will discuss the challenges of how we determine truth and trust; how we identify or anticipate implications for policy, education, and creative collaboration; in what ways art and science address what is known and unknown. How does COVID require taking creative leaps in science and art, how can we "toggle between rigor and wonder", and where can we find hope and healing pathways while responding to a health crisis we are still experiencing?

FEBRUARY LASER: “Resilience: From Cells to the Human Experience”

Date: Friday, February 26, 5PM Mountain Time.

Panelists: cancer researcher Carlo Maley, media artist Chris Johnson, curator Jenny Lam

Today, we will talk about the concept of resilience as seen through the lenses of biology, Black Lives Matter, and curation as a tool to bring communities together.  Can biological systems inform us about our own abilities to be resilient? How can creative communities be built and maintained? Can we create a new renaissance and pay attention in new ways?


JANUARY LASER: ASU-Leonardo Initiative and Center for Science and the Imagination Fellowship.

Tuesday, Jan 19, 9am MST. (Find your timezone here)

Introduction by Diana Ayton-Shenker, CEO of Leonardo and Ed Finn, director of the Center for Science and Imagination. 

Panelists: Melanie Valencia, Brook Thompson, Nandita Kumar

Showcasing the increadible work done during the Fellowship by Melanie Valencia, Brook Thompson, and Nandita Kumar.

NOVEMBER LASER: Facility of Mind: How Thinking in New Ways Can Inspire New Questions

Friday, Nov 13, 9:00am MST. (Find your timezone here)

Panelists:  Media artists boredom research, biologist Angelo Fortunato, curator Brittany Corrales. 

This LASER talk explores the following question: what are the benefits of interdisciplinary research? We explore this question by looking at the making of "In Search of Chemozoa", which was created by boredomresearch, British visual artists Vicky Isley and Paul Smith. "In Search of Chemozoa" is the result of a residency with the Arizona Cancer Evolution Center, also known as ACE. ACE is housed in the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University.

OCTOBER LASER: Why Do Zombies Refuse to Die?

Thursday, Oct 29, 5:00pm Pacific Time. 

Panelists: Jillian McDonald, Athena Aktipis, Henry Kaplan, Robin Nelson

This Halloween-inspired LASER talk asks:  why do zombies refuse to die? What is it about zombies and their staying power in our culture?  Are they trying to tell us something?

LASER logo

Click here to view more LASERs on the Leonardo/ISAST website.