Graduate Student Talk: Irene Zhang

November 30, 2022
Event Types
Talk / Lecture
Public Program
A white rectangular box with three clear sides contains bright green algae clinging to a web of a white 3D printed bubble-like armature.

Anicka Yi, Living and Dying in The Bacteriacene, 2019. Installation view: Symbionts: Contemporary Artists and the Biosphere, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, 2022. Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery. Photo: Dario Lasagni

MIT List Visual Arts Center, 20 Ames Street, Wiesner Building (Building E15), Cambridge, MA 02139
Day & Time
Free, but registration required.

Irene Zhang

Join Irene Zhang from the Doctoral Program in Microbiology here at MIT, for a conversation exploring the work of Anicka Yi, now exhibiting in Symbionts: Contemporary Artists and the Biosphere.

In this talk, Irene will discuss the holobiont, an assemblage of interacting organisms within an environment, as a unit of action and evolution. The cooperative and competitive interactions between the largely microbial members of these assemblages drive global elemental cycles, creating both the organic matter we are made of and the oxygen we breathe. In examining Yi’s piece, Living and Dying in the Bacteriacene, now on view in Symbionts, Zhang will provide a new perspective on the work, and introduce the parallels found within her own research.

This will be a hybrid event with a live video that can be streamed here at 5:30 PM. 

About the Speaker

Irene Zhang is a microbial ecologist researching the metabolic interactions between microbes: how they communicate, cooperate, compete, and co-evolve. Microbes naturally assemble into communities, and these communities underpin the structure and function of health, ecosystems, and biogeochemical cycling, including cycles that control the natural emission and consumption of greenhouse gases. Currently, as a PhD candidate in the interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Microbiology, Irene works in the department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT, where she uses a combination of computational tools, laboratory experiments, and seagoing fieldwork to better understand the network of microbial nitrogen metabolisms in anoxic environments. Previously, she worked on microbes within a range of environments including the human airway microbiome, acid mine drainage systems, and croplands in Illinois. As a dual BA in Visual Arts and BSc in Biological Sciences graduate from the University of Chicago, Irene has a background in illustration, film, graphic design, and installation art. She has displayed work at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, the Montclair Art Museum, and the University of Chicago Logan Center for the Arts, and is also the creator of many MIT organization logos. Her current fascination is with the Light and Space movement. 

Graduate Student Talks

MIT graduate students explore current exhibitions at the List Center through the lens of their own research, background and interests. Join us for this interdisciplinary lecture series where we dive into how art and research are overlapping on MIT’s campus.