Welcome our first artist-in-residence!

Since its conception, Biotown has embraced the full gamut of disciplines that DIYbio straddles. We’re adamant about not overlooking the experimental, creative, and outreach benefits of sci-art, not least because some of our members are art enthusiasts themselves, in one form or another. We’ve been on the lookout for an artist who is interested in leveraging their creative drive with scientific instruments, using our guidance along the way.

We’re very pleased to announce that we found that artist. James Lewicki will be joining Biotown as our first artist-in-residence!

James has joined Biotown at several events over the past year, and was kind enough to support our crowd funding campaign to outfit our lab. Knowing his artistic impulses and background in fine art photography, we jumped at the chance to include him in a more permanent way. James received an Honours Bachelor of Social Sciences in Political Science from the University of Ottawa in 2016, and is currently studying the political theory of universal basic income for an M.A. from the same institution. James also co-founded a photography magazine where he acts as Outreach Editor, called Vulgaris Magazine.

James turned away from interest in scientific fields in high school, where he found that his preference for understanding the big picture got in the way of his instruction. “I’m all about concepts, and have never been able to learn something unless I understood the bigger picture it fit into. But I’ve a close friend who really really likes science, and he talks to me in a way that I understand it, at the conceptual level, and I think I’ve learned to like science through him.”

James grew up in Brampton, Ontario, with some time spent as a youth in the northern Ontario town of Geraldton. He moved to Ottawa for his undergraduate degree, and fell in love with the feeling of a big city on a small scale.

“I started to become interested in photography when we went on a family trip overseas. It was the first time Dad could afford to fly anywhere since the divorce, and I think I shot like 7 disposable cameras worth of film. One of the photos I shot was actually really quite good — beginner’s luck I suppose — and my dad framed it and bragged about it to all his friends. I guess I just thought ‘Hey, I like doing this, and I must be something near okay at it.’ ” That was in 2008. In 2010, at the age of 16, James’ photography was first published in What If? Magazine and he was featured in his first show.

James will be experimenting with the chemical and mechanical properties of film at the microscopic level. His residency will last an indeterminate time, hoping at the end to have a photographic series to exhibit. Biotown hopes that his work will encourage other artists interested in sciart to take up the mantle when James moves on. His work will start in earnest once we source a microscope that will suit the needs of his project.



Dear all you lovely people,

Today marks the last day of our crowd funding campaign. Thanks so much to everyone who donated, shared our story, watched our video, or talked to their friends. Although we didn’t meet our goal of $5000, we are so proud of what we have accomplished.

We found a real civic need that the people of Ottawa could rally around. We figured out a workable scientific protocol to address that need with options for technological upgrades and real-world application. We determined what we needed to develop this methodology, and decided the best way to go about it was to turn to residents of Ottawa, global cities, and the ever-reliable DIYbio community. We planned and executed a crowd funding campaign, complete with a pitch video to head our IndieGoGo page. Biotown had its story, vision, and personalities featured on CKCU, Ottawhat?, and CBC’s All in a Day, and we graced the pages of the University of Ottawa’s Iron Otis. We learned so much, individually and as a group, and we’re so happy to have raised the amount of money and interest that we have.

Just because we didn’t reach our goal doesn’t mean that DIY water testing is over. In fact, it’s very much the opposite. We had lofty aspirations, but even if we met them we would have had to plan carefully to carry our research to completion. Thanks to our dedication to the value of the project, and some very inspirational people and groups in Ottawa who care about democratizing science and environmental sustainability, we’re confident we can see it through.

Our campaign page, www.igg.me/at/biotownottawa, will remain open as a platform for receiving donations. We are laying the groundwork for our water pathogen testing protocol. Refining the protocol should begin in earnest Spring 2018. In the meantime, we’ll continue to grow our offerings as Ottawa’s community biology lab with more workshops and a wider range of expertise.

Look forward to memberships becoming available in 2018. In the short term, consider attending OCIMM at the University of Ottawa the weekend of October 27th, and come paint with glow-in-the-dark bacteria on October 30th. For those who requested perks, we will start filling those orders soon.