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Catalyst to Catwalk

Catalyst to Catwalk

A group graduate students and postdoctoral scientists from the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics are bringing a new meaning to the term ‘model organism’ by mixing genetics with a dash of runway style in a new science inspired clothing collection.

For scientists, model organisms are species that are crucial in helping understand biological processes because they are easy to maintain and reproduce well in laboratory conditions.

The best known is the tiny fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, which has been used in genetic research for more than 100 years. Despite the physical difference it shares almost 60% of its genes with humans.

Samantha Schaffner is a 4th year PhD student in the Kobor Lab where she uses model organisms to research epigenetics, the study of how our genes are affected by our environment and lifestyle. Her particular field of study is looking for epigenetic markers of Parkinson’s Disease.

“Our lab works with several model organisms including fruit flies and cultures of yeast. We wanted a way to help people, particularly children, understand how model organisms can help us learn more about our own genetic make-up and to get them interested in science more broadly.”

To do this we wanted to team up with an industry completely outside science to help us with this and after plenty of brainstorming we hit on fashion design.”


[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]The team contacted The Vancouver Community College (VCC) Fashion department and the idea for a line of clothing based on the model organisms used in the lab was born.

“The team from VCC visited our lab and we showed them our experiments and the equipment we use. It was exciting to see them take inspiration from things like the patterns formed by chemical assays or the stripes of a fly’s abdomen. For us these are normally part of our experiments, so we also got to experience the lab in a completely different way.”

Student Lexi Vanderzalm, alumni (Brigita Anrevi, Chris Nagy, Nico Gruzling, and Steven Thomas), and instructors Andrea Korens and Allison Drake created dresses, t-shirts, leggings, and shorts that embody their expanded understanding of the basic building blocks of molecular biology.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][dt_fancy_image image_id=”22134″][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]“It was a really collaborative project and our lab are very grateful that the VCC team were able to take what started out as an abstract concept and turn it into something beautiful and tangible. We even got some friends and family members to help model some of the outfits”.

The Model Organisms Collection comprises eight unique outfits designed for children. Each features some elements drawn from the lab such as geometric insect wings and colourful chemical assays.

The whole collection will be getting its runway premier at Vancouver Kids Fashion Week on October 12. In addition to the runway show, audience members will also have a chance to learn more about model organisms, by visiting the Healthy Starts Booth at the event.

VKFW has a global reputation for recognizing and celebrating diverse and innovative talent, proudly creating a platform for local and international children’s wear designers. The SS20 season introduces the seventh official edition of Vancouver Kids Fashion Week, highlighting creative designers from around the world.

“Working in health research at this moment is exciting because we are starting to understand how gene regulation impacts our lifelong well-being…We hope that the collection will help to pass on that excitement to young people and get them thinking about how model organisms can help us learn about how humans work.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Study Room, Thea Koerner House, UBC

GSS Loft, Rm. 4202 of AMS Student Nest, UBC

Leon’s Lounge, Thea Koerner House, UBC

Thea’s Lounge, Thea Koerner House, UBC

Penthouse, Thea Koerner House, UBC