What’s a scientist doing promoting the humanities during National Science Week?
But then UNE science geek Dr Stephen Bosi is not your average scientist. By day he’s a lecturer in the School of Science and Technology and researching new ways to use physics to improve the detection and treatment of cancer. After hours he’s an artist.
And, in his eyes, it’s a perfect match.
“Scientific research requires as much creativity as the Arts,” Dr Bosi says.
“You have to think abstractly and creatively, and when you’re doing experiments, you also have to think in an artisan’s hands-on way.
“Often scientists are called upon to invent a new concept or approach completely out of thin air.”
It’s not so far removed from the bedroom of Dr Bosi’s childhood, an experimental space cluttered with salvaged electrical appliances and tools, bottles of chemicals, snails, tadpoles, mice and sea monkeys, where paints and pencils had equal billing.
His Italian family did not distinguish science from art and, instead, inspired curiosity in all its forms.
“My family believed you needed to be educated as broadly as possible and I still believe we should teach across disciplines rather than encourage school students to specialise,” he said.
“I think there should be less subject choice and that science and maths should both be compulsory in senior years.
“Just as anatomy is vital to drawing, and history is vital to art and French, everything is connected.”
And as for the current promotion of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects in Australian high schools?
“I don’t think we are teaching too much STEM; our schools are just not integrating it properly into other subject areas,” says Dr Bosi, who completed a double major in physics and chemistry and went on to write a series of high school physics textbooks.
“Every single aspect of our lives is utterly entrenched in the discoveries of science, technology and mathematics.
“Mobile phones, television, medical imaging – none of this would even be conceivable without STEM.
“It’s a bit like the goldfish in the fishbowl that doesn’t see the water. You tell me an area of human aspiration where science hasn’t made an important contribution?
“Science is so pervasive. We are steeped in it and yet we don’t fully appreciate it. People will happily use their smartphone and all the while say they hate science. Science is giving humans new powers all the time.”
When he’s not teaching or doodling during boring meetings, Dr Bosi is working to improve the 3D imagery from X-rays.
“Maths is helping us to improve image processing, and if we can improve the image quality, then we can reduce the radiation dose given to patients,” he said.
For science, ultimately, can make us happier.
“Think of the miserable lives 1000 years ago, with people dying of the Black Death and being poisoned by mercury, and raw sewage running down the streets,” Dr Bosi said.
“We need scientists today more than ever, just like we need artists.”