Name: Kathryn Koopman
Year: First-year Masters
Major: Music Composition
Submission: gamma rhythm - Video Art
Prize: $100
Commentary: Kathryn Koopman’s music and video art piece, inspired by groundbreaking Alzheimer’s research at MIT, is an intimate, conceptual portrait of a mind afflicted by memory loss. Recent studies by Li-Huei Tsai, director of the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT, show that the noninvasive treatment of optogenetics (i.e. using flashing lights to control neurons) can encourage memory retrieval in mice. Koopman’s video is a sensual interpretation of this research, a brief imagining of what it might be like to lose one’s memory and then have it re-emerge by flashing lights. While it’s not necessary to know STEM concepts like optogenetics or microglia to receive her work, having this background only adds to the narrative richness of it: archival footage and voice become memories, sparks become optogenetics, a series of words become the confidence of a renewed human personality. Part homage, part interpretation, and part meditation on important STEM research, Koopman’s video engages our senses and encourages cross-disciplinary, narrative thinking of scientific concepts. Written by contest judge Ariel Ackerly

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