STEM Art and Film Festival Brings Scientific Concepts to the Public

November 21, 2019

Kim Moss Installation Collage

Kim Moss of Iowa State University won the Best Art awards from the judges and from attendees for her installation at the STEM Art and Film Festival on November 17 in Madison, Wisconsin.

Media Contact:
Heather Thorstensen
Manager of Communications
Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society
(919) 549-4691 ext. 216

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC—A STEM Art and Film Festival on November 17 at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison, Wisconsin, celebrated visual arts as tools that help the public learn about science, technology, engineering, and math.

Featuring approximately 30 pieces of art and 10 films, the public festival was the final event of the Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference held by Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society.

Kim Moss, an assistant professor of Art and Visual Culture at Iowa State University, won the Best Art awards from the judges and attendees. Her installation, The Landscapes Within, is a series of three visualizations using LED lights of various colors to depict enlarged cellular processes of healing and disease, intended to encourage viewers to think about their health. 

"I'm interested in teaching people how to do positive things in the environment, and change their lifestyle habits to motivate positive change in their health and their lives," Moss said, "and so I think biomedical art is a very strong way to bring them in to those topics of science and medicine and helping to bring them in from a point of curiosity where they might not expect to learn, but they might be surprised that they actually learn something as they dig in deeper into what they're looking at."

Group Watching Film

Attendees of the STEM Art and Film Festival watched short films, documentaries, animations, and a web series. 


Artists and filmmakers could submit their work related to any STEM topic, but the festival was particularly focused on the theme of Our Changing Global Environment. A screening was held of the Emmy award-winning Netflix documentary, Chasing Coral, which was excluded from the festival’s film competition and follows a team of scientists as they monitor coral dying due to climate change. James Porter, an ecology professor at the University of Georgia who was a scientific advisor on the film, was joined on stage by artist Courtney Mattison to answer questions. Mattison creates large-scale ceramic sculpture installations to promote ocean conservation.

The agenda also included science talks and exhibit booths where attendees could build necklaces containing seeds to support the region’s prairies, ask conservation marine bioligst David Shiffman anything about sharks, and try on the type of amour and weapons used in the 16th century.

Science Talk and Armour

Science talks, shown above on the left, were part of the STEM Art and Film Festival. The Guilde of St. Michael, on right, gave attendees the chance to try on 16th-century style armour. 

Judges selected the following pieces as the top art and film selections.


Best Film Overall

Mack Minded
Created by Curious Dog Creative 
Before the acronym STEM even existed, Pauline Beery Mack, Texas Woman’s University professor in the 1950s to 1970s, was a pioneer in the quest for knowledge in science, technology and statistical research.

Best Documentary

Mack Minded
See Best Film Overall above.

Best Short Film

Natural Selection Linked to Spatial Memory in Wild Mountain Chickadee Research
Created by University of Nevada, Reno College of Science
Chickadees with better learning and memory skills, needed to find numerous food caches, are more likely to survive their first winter, a long-term study of mountain chickadees has found.

Best Animation

The Carbon Cycle: A Leaf’s View
Created by students in Cinematic Arts and Dr. Myrna Meyers, University of Southern California
A mangrove ecosystem’s view of the carbon cycle.

People’s Choice Award

Introduction to Knots & Invariants
Created by Andrews University’s Department of Mathematics
A 3Blue1Brown style video describing the basics of knot theory


Best Artwork Overall

The Landscapes Within
Created by Kim Moss, Iowa State University

Honorable Mention

Paradigm Shift
Digital Illustration
Created by Sarah Adkins, The University of Alabama at Birmingham

People’s Choice Award

The Landscapes Within
See Best Overall Artwork above

Sigma Xi thanks the following judges.

Film Judges

Kiki Sanford, Vice President of Public Relations, Science Talk

James Porter, Josiah Meigs Professor of Ecology at the University of Georgia and Chief Scientific Advisor to Chasing Coral

David Shiffman, Marine Conservation Biologist and Expert in Public Science Engagement

Art Judges

Darcy Gentleman, Professional Science Communicator

Courtney Mattison, Artist

Fenella Saunders, Editor-in-Chief of American Scientist

More About Sigma Xi: Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society is the world’s largest multidisciplinary honor society for scientists and engineers. Its mission is to enhance the health of the research enterprise, foster integrity in science and engineering, and promote the public understanding of science for the purpose of improving the human condition. Sigma Xi chapters can be found at colleges and universities, government laboratories, and industry research centers around the world. More than 200 Nobel Prize winners have been members. The Society is based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. On Twitter: @SigmaXiSociety