Visualizing Science

Through engaging exhibits, illustrations, and movies, artists are bringing science to general audiences in elegant, even fun ways that help the public understand complex scientific concepts.

Event Details


swissnex San Francisco
730 Montgomery St., San Francisco, 94111 United States


April 08, 2010 from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm America/Los Angeles (UTC-07:00)

Scientific concepts can be difficult for everyday audiences to understand. And scientists themselves, brilliant as they may be, aren’t always the world’s best communicators of their own research. That’s where art and artists come in.

Through engaging exhibits, displays, illustrations, and movies, artists are bringing science to general audiences in elegant, even fun ways that can help the public visualize complex scientific concepts.

To better understand how scientists and artists can and do interact and how art can enrich research results by explaining phenomena visually and creatively, swissnex San Francisco hosts a panel discussion with Cornelia Hesse-Honegger, renowned Swiss scientific illustrator; Tierney Thys, marine biologist, science communicator, and National Geographic Emerging Explorer; Charles Sowers, artist and exhibit developer at the Exploratorium; and Erin Biba (moderator), WIRED Magazine correspondent covering science.

Cornelia Hesse-Honegger’s paintings depicting morphologically disturbed insects near fallout areas of nuclear plants like Chernobyl will be featured in WIRED’s May issue.

Ten of her original works will be on display at swissnex San Francisco from April 7th through April 29th, 2010. Opening hours: Monday-Friday 9am – 5pm. Let us know in advance if you are coming to see the exhibit.


6:30 pm doors open
7:00 pm discussion with Cornelia Hess-Honegger, Erin Biba, Charles Sowers, and guest (TBA)
8:15 pm exhibition reception
9:30 pm doors close

Works by Cornelia Hesse-Honegger on display at swissnex from April 7 though April 16. Opening hours: Monday – Friday, 9am to 5pm. Let us know in advance if you are coming to see the exhibit.


Cornelia Hesse-Honegger

A scientific illustrator and artist, Cornelia Hesse-Honegger was born in 1944 in Zurich, Switzerland. She worked for 25 years as a scientific illustrator for the scientific department of the Natural History Museum at the University of Zurich. Since 1969, she has collected and painted bugs in the suborder Heteroptera. Her watercolors act as an interface between art and science and pay witness to a beautiful but endangered nature. Since the nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl in 1986, she has collected, studied, and painted morphologically disturbed insects she finds in the fallout areas of this and other nuclear plants. Since the early 1970s, her work has been shown in various galleries and museums in Switzerland, as well as at prestigious institutions such as the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Chelsea Art Museum in New York, and the Kunsthaus Nürnberg. For more on Cornelia click here.


Charles Sowers

is an artist and exhibit developer at the Exploratorium who has been making thought-provoking, beautiful, and sometimes whimsical experiences for visitors for the past 15 years. He seeks to provoke a sense of delight and wonder and to reward extended observation. Frequently, this involves developing an apparatus to recreate and/or highlight some natural phenomenon observed in the world—the swirl of fog blowing over a hill, the formation of ice on a puddle, or the flow of water and foam on the beach as a wave drains away. These things often go un-noticed until pointed out but, according to Sowers, the mundane can be sublime.
Science serves as a deep resource for creative ideas for Sowers, and he frequently collaborates with scientists to recreate lab experiments. Through these collaborations, he has discovered a strong correlation between his process and that of the scientific experimentalist. Both build apparatus, for example—scientists to probe the limits of their collective understanding, and Sowers to probe the boundaries of beauty, delight, and wonder.


Tierney Thys

Thys earned her A.B. in biology from Brown University and her Ph.D. studying fish biomechanics at Duke University. She worked with media group Sea Studios Foundation, in Monterey, California,  as a senior research consultant and taught environmental science and policy as an adjunct professor at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. She continues her research on the world’s heaviest bony fish, the Mola mola, as part of the Census of Marine Life. Thys was recently elected a National Geographic Emerging Explorer and nominated for a Pew Fellowship in marine conservation. She serves on the braintrust for the annual Technology, Entertainment and Design ( conference and on the task force for the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry’s new Exploration Hall. She previously worked with Sylvia E
arle at Deep Ocean Engineering on the “Deep Flight” submersible, has piloted the Nuytco Deep Worker subs, and is a certified diver and private land and sea pilot.
She is currently working on developing a large media project on water for PBS with National Geographic Kids, and served as a judge for the 2009 International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge.


Erin Biba

Erin Biba is a correspondent for WIRED Magazine. Based in San-Francisco, she writes about science and its intersection with technology and popular culture—covering topics like the physics of time, NASA’s latest space-based telescope, and beer made from 145-million-year-old yeast. Her work has appeared in Nylon, The Sydney Morning Herald, PC World, and The Atlantic. Follow her stories and thoughts about the latest in science and SciFi on Twitter.




Photo: Myleen Hollero

Event Photos