Jane Saffell


Imperial College London

Field of study

Molecular neurobiology, cell adhesion, cell motility, nervous system repair

What areas of science / art are you interested in?

Reifying (visually) the process of scientific hypothesis building, testing and re-imagining.

How scientific papers (stories) are sculpted (subjectively) from (objective???) data … how we make narratives from the pieces of data we have, and how different stories could be told from these same pieces. How several people can see the same pieces of data, yet interpret them differently, telling different narratives. (Like the poem about the blind men and the elephant).

Leading from this, the problems that arise when people are so attached to the rightness of a hypothesis that they entrench it, eschewing the fluidity, morphing and imagining that is necessary to pursue truth, whatever that may be.

Scientifically, I am interested in how neurons find their target tissue during nervous system develop. The growing tip is guided by navigation cues in the environment through which it passes, and these cues are detected by receptors on the surface of the tip. These cues control the movement of the tip, causing it to stop, grow faster, turn away, turn towards, etc. If "problems" are encountered, e.g. a particular cue is not present, there are others that do the job almost as well. The system has flexibility and redundancy built into it, assuming that things will not go according to plan and making provision for this. This is an intersting metaphor for life narratives.

Anything else...

There is an Imperial College artefact that I do not think is very well designed and I would like to work with an artist to design a new one and make a prototype. We could then propose to the College that they switch to the new design.