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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Putting science in the picture

Published: 1 February 2009

Graduate is giving his paintings to University’s Life Sciences building

Jason Adamson always found it impossible to choose between science and art at school, and he’s still equally passionate about both.

Still only 22 years old, the Biomedical Sciences graduate works as a research scientist, investigating the causes of lung disease. But he paints in the evenings and weekends, stages exhibitions and has even had artwork commissioned for bars in Southampton and London. And he is donating two of his paintings, completed during his degree studies, to grace the foyer of the new Life Sciences building.

‘It was 50/50 art and science right through my schooldays,’ says Jason. ‘I had to persuade the staff at Totton College to let me take A Levels in Biology, Chemistry and Art as it wasn’t considered a good career move, but I persevered and it was worth it.’

Jason isn’t quite sure how his talents developed: “I’m not related to any artists or scientists as far as I know. My father’s an engineer and my mother is a teacher, who also qualified at Southampton. But my sister is now an undergraduate at the School of Biological Sciences, too, so maybe we’re starting a new trend.”

He chose Biomedical Sciences at Southampton’s School of Biological Sciences because of its reputation. “I didn’t want to go away to university because I had travelled round the world a lot with my family when I was younger. Southampton is well-respected for biological science and it was a good choice. The degree was very flexible and I was able to study several interesting aspects of the subject.”

By chance, his first solo exhibition was scheduled at the same time as his second-year exams. ‘It was a stressful time preparing for both but I’m pleased to say they went well. I passed the exams and sold 10 of my paintings,’ he explains. Art and science coincided at another of his exhibitions. “I was doing some work on my dissertation into cell death in cancer during a quiet moment at an exhibition and a visitor came up to me and asked what I was doing. I thought he wouldn’t be interested, but it turned out he was a local GP who even went on to buy one of my pictures.”

The paintings Jason is donating to the new Life Sciences building, now being constructed on Highfield Campus, were done in 2007, the year he graduated. “Twisted Ladder”, a painting showing the structure of DNA, is an acrylic on canvas, and “The Cell”, also an acrylic, is an abstract interpretation of an animal cell. The colourful pictures will be given a prominent position when the building opens in 2010 and Head of School Professor David Shepherd says that the School will be delighted to display them.

“We have plenty of photographs of cells and other biological themes”, he says, but this is the first time we have had any paintings reflecting what we do. We’re most grateful to Jason for his generosity and will be giving them pride of place in our new building.”

Jason remains passionate about science and is enjoying the opportunity to put all the analytical and research skills gained at Southampton into practice. “Scientific research is my career and I want to progress and do well, but art is still important to me. My artistic and design skills come in useful at work; I’ve been called on to help produce a brochure highlighting what we do. But I think it’s best to keep my painting as a very special hobby.”
Jason’s work can be viewed at All paintings ©Jason Adamson

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