Updated: Nov 8
By Keerthana Vinod
The acronym STEM has been changed into STEAM in the past few years. What does the ‘a’ stand for? Well, it stands for Arts. Though you may not initially correlate activities like painting with those like engineering or math, they have more of a connection than meets the eye. Countless professionals in STEM fields utilize skills that they’ve learned through the arts to aid them in their careers and make discoveries. However, the misconception still remains that STEM and art cannot coexist. That brings us to our discussion today: how does art tie into STEM, and what can STEM-minded individuals do to benefit from art?
To observe just how impactful art is to the STEM world, let’s take a closer look at some specific cases where art has aided those in STEM. Zoe Laughlin, the director of the Institute of Making at the University College London, benefitted from her prior knowledge of materials while studying how the type of metal used to make cutlery affected the taste of food. The experience that Laughlin had with different materials from taking design and textiles classes earlier allowed for her to have a better understanding of the properties of the metals she was studying. Ultimately, this expertise gained from taking art courses greatly aided her in her studies. Another example of art helping those in STEM would be Stephon Alexander, a cosmologist as well as a saxophone player. He argues that his experiences being a jazz musician gave him skills that helped him in his work. Alexander states that, “My practice and my performance in improvisation allow me to take bigger risks with ideas, and not be too attached to the outcomes.” This creative mindset allowed him to approach his study on the expanding universe in different ways, which permitted him to develop an effective model of matter and antimatter.
These benefits observed in STEM research raise the question of how we, as STEM-minded individuals, can be more involved in the arts. Unfortunately, in many schools, art isn’t incorporated into many of the STEM courses offered. This is because of the common misconception that art and STEM are polar opposites. However, there are still ways to get around this. If you have a creative hobby such as drawing or playing an instrument, take classes with those aspects to them. Even if you claim to be “not artistic,” there are other classes available that encourage you to be creative such as Creative Writing. This way, you’ll ensure that you’ll have time during the day to expand your creativity and build useful skills. If you aren’t as interested in taking art classes or simply don’t have the space in your schedule, there are other creative activities that you can do as well. Simply incorporating some brain-stimulating activities into your daily routine - such as journaling, learning a new language, or meditating - can help you be more creative.
Changing the acronym STEM to STEAM may seem an unusual idea, but the overlap between STEM and art is certainly not to be ignored. By implementing art into our education as well as our daily lives, we can use these creative skills to our benefit as STEM-minded individuals and make an impact in our community. Who knows, maybe doodling a bit will give your mind enough space to make the next greatest discovery.
Carty, A. (2019, July 20). 12 ways to kickstart your creativity every day. Skillshare Blog.
Ruopp, S. (2021, March 2). The role of fine arts and music in STEM careers. Arts Academy in
the Woods. https://www.artsacad.net/the-role-of-fine-arts-and-music-in-stem-