Good Life

At the intersection of science and creativity with Felecia Davis

Felecia Davis is the director of SOFTLAB, a research group based out of the Stuckeman School at Penn State.
Felecia Davis is the director of SOFTLAB, a research group based out of the Stuckeman School at Penn State. Photo provided

Felecia Davis has set up shop at the intersection of science and art, which seems like the natural habitat of an assistant professor of architecture at Penn State. As the director of SOFTLAB, a research group based out of the Stuckeman School, Davis is able to take that connection a step further — and possibly make, see or learn something new along the way.

“It takes work to see something new and this process is really interesting to me,” Davis said.

Q: As the director of SOFTLAB, you work a great deal with textiles that respond to commands through computer programming, sensors and electronics. What excites you most about the possibilities there?

A: I am excited to work with textiles in general in design because they have such a broad and fundamental role in people’s lives, keeping us warm, clean, dry, filtering our air, providing psychological support, allowing us to communicate with each other and so many other roles. It is exciting to be able to work from the very micro scale, with digital information in conjunction with material to understanding how this affects our lives at the scale of a room, or building or city for example.

Q: Where do you think that art and science intersect?

A: They intersect everywhere. They are never separate. It is just a matter of asking different questions in different ways about the same things. There are different ways of understanding an object, issue, event, behavior, etc., but it is still one thing. For example an artist’s way of understanding and working with color paint is very different from a physicist who maybe is trying to understand wave lengths and reception on the eye. At the end of the day both ways of understanding are valuable for different reasons but imagine what new things we could learn about ourselves and the world if we crossed between these ways of understanding?

Michelle Orner is a quality assurance laboratory specialist at the Penn State Berkey Creamery. Her favorite part of the job is tasting fresh ice cream samples in the lab.

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