Art & Science: Beyond The Balance
Careers in the arts and careers in the sciences have long been thought of divergent with little chance for overlap. Nowadays, however, there are a considerable number of jobs requiring high technical skills as well as a penchant for thinking out of the box. While the arts offer an outlet for creativity, they can also provide invaluable perspective on the sciences. Many lab science courses now supplement their curriculums with gallery tours in order to hone student’s observational skills. Conversely, the sciences can inspire many in the arts and pop culture, which can be seen anywhere from the obvious case of the Science Fiction genre to the more subtle inclusion of mathematical references in the long running cartoon The Simpsons. (Fun Fact: Most of the writers on the Simpsons have advanced degrees in mathematics. You can read the book The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets by Simon Singh for further reference).
There are many degree programs dedicated to studying the interrelationship of the arts and science and it may be advantageous for students to balance both sides of their brains in their studies. Some students may think of themselves as artists first and want to pursue another subject for potential career stability. Some may consider themselves scientists first and want to hone crucial observational and critical thinking skills through the arts. Some want to tie them together and create a hybrid educational experience.
I originally pursued a B.A. in Dance and Mathematics as I was interested in both subjects and wanted to balance out my physical dance training with a subject that provided me with a chance to challenge myself mentally. Although I had never intended for the two subjects to intersect, I found that the fields shared similar threads. It mays seem peculiar that there is a very close relationship between the grace of Darcy Bussell and the proof writing of Andrew. However, there are many surprising ways that math influences the dancing body. For example, in the ballet syllabus developed by Russian teacher Agrippina Vaganova, the “ballet box,” a two-dimensional floor pattern that directs the eight facings of the dancer in space, informs the spatial movements of the dancer. This box, coincidentally enough, is a pitch perfect visual for an S7 Rotational Group as studied in symmetry groups in Abstract Algebra. It is highly unlikely that Madame Vaganova was directly using mathematical concepts in her instruction but the intuitive idea of order influenced her as she developed her technique.
Fortunately, there are degree programs that offer the flexibility to study two subjects and you may want to consider undertaking a dual degree if that is the case. First and foremost, it is absolutely possible to do and rewarding in many surprising ways. However, you need to keep several things in mind and following this PROMPT will help.
Presence is key
I know the story. Whether you are focusing on one or many subjects, you can become droll to the routine of work. In order to get the most out of your studies, you need to stay present in every moment of them. Presence is highly dependent on…
Staying creative and productive absolutely hinges on this. As tempting as it is to cram your schedule full of classes and activities, you need to be conscious of giving yourself breaks. Use them well and make sure you consistently get a full-nights sleep. You will better retain the massive amounts of information you are taking on and will be able to create at your fullest potential.
Organisation is crucial
If you are studying two or more subjects, you will likely be working between tight and often-conflicting schedules. Keeping your workspace clean, be that a desk a room or a studio. Additionally, be responsive to people. Advisors can hesitate to grant students the opportunity to study more than one subject if they feel like the students are not able to handle it.
Mix it up
Always take the opportunity to reflect on how the classes you take influence each other. While you want to do your best to maximize your knowledge and understanding of each subject, you also want to see how your work in one subject is influencing the work in the other.
Pick Brains and Present yours
Try to connect with as many people in your respective fields as you can. Ask questions about the work they do and don’t be afraid to ask what is missing in the field. Often, your knowledge and practice of two (or more) unrelated fields can fill in crucial gaps.
Time is precious
Although the process of getting your degree may seem exhaustively long, in reality, you only have a few years for a degree. That is very little time to get the most out of your studies and revising two completely different subjects will inevitably teach you a lot of valuable lessons about time management. However, your time in your studies is not limited to the time in lectures, studios or libraries. This also includes preparation time as you move from subject to subject. You can’t just go from a lecture to a studio and back and expect to perform at your optimum level. You need to schedule time for transfer and preparation and most importantly, breaks. Set a schedule and stick to it.
Undertaking research in more than one area of study can teach you many valuable things, both about the content of your fields and your approach to life challenges. Although it can be daunting at time, it can be a fulfilling experience that gives you a unique perspective on your studies.