VISTA partnership combines science and art

July 13, 2017


John Stack
Staff Reporter | jes062@ latech.edu


There is a new collaboration at Louisiana Tech, VISTA (Visual Integration of Science Through Art), which seeks to offer students a unique opportunity to blend their passion for art and science, interact with clients, and learn how to develop a set of professional skills that will enable them to build a successful career in the future.


VISTA is an interdisciplinary partnership between the College of Liberal Arts, College of Applied and Natural Sciences and College of Engineering and Sciences designed to prepare students for graduate school and careers in medical illustration and overall enhance science communication.


Nick Bustamante, an associate professor of studio art, explained the inception and his role in this project.


“I started working with Dr. Mary Caldorera-Moore and Dr. Jamie Newman three years ago, and they asked me to create an illustration for a textbook chapter they were writing,” Bustamante said. “While working together we realized how much our respective disciplines could benefit from each other how great it would be to bring this interdisciplinary experience to our students.”


He said he started teaching a digital painting course the next year and asked Caldorera-Moore and Newman to collaborate on the final project for the class. 


“The final took the form of a scientific Illustration where Doctors Caldorera-Moore and Newman interacted with students as professional clients,” Bustamante said.


“The project and class was a huge success and became the catalyst for the development of a pre-medical illustration minor  this interdisciplinary project gave students real world experience of working with a client and challenged them to work with scientific concepts.”   


He said students involved will gain a new digital skill set that can be applied to a variety of career paths.


Karl Puljak, director of the school of design, explained how the integration of these fields will benefit both the fields and those involved.


“There’s often a perceived firewall placed between the disciplines the arts and the sciences, and a perception that STEM education and an education in art and design are mutually exclusive,” Puljak said. “One of the best takeaways from the VISTA/pre-medical illustration opportunity is showing people that these educational models can learn from and support each other to produce amazing things.”


He then lauded Bustamante’s efforts and their effects in realizing this idea.


“It’s been gratifying to see how Professor Bustamante’s initial courses in digital painting with scientific content have opened the eyes of our studio art students,” Puljak said. “The experience has helped them realize that their training and education can be leveraged towards career paths well beyond more traditional ones we typically associate with being an artist.”


Don Kaczvinsky, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, encapsulated the financial aspect of this new area for the students.


“A company in Shreveport does medical illustration and we have a direct link with them,” Kaczvinsky said. “If you like art and science, or vice versa, and get a degree in this field, you start out getting paid what engineers get paid: $70,000 per year.”


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