STEM and the arts used to be thought of as mutually exclusive, but for junior Bebe Badiei, science and creativity really do coexist.
"Art has always been a really big part of my life," Badiei said. "Growing up as an only child, I had to entertain myself with books and my imagination. I've always loved being able to work with my hands, so I took up drawing to put some of the things from my imagination onto paper."
Because her interest in art started at such a young age, Badiei wanted to continue her hobby in college. But with a primary major in cell biology and genetics, she found it hard to make time for art. So she added studio art as a second major and hasn't looked back since.
"Picking up the double major at school gave me the discipline I needed to practice my skills and commit to becoming a better artist," Badiei said. "In my STEM classes, material is pretty cut and dry and you're taught to think critically in a logical way. In art, you're challenged to be more creative in your problem solving. Making art is also a meditative process that allows me the chance to be peaceful and reflective in my normally hectic lifestyle."
Art is so important to the human spirit for many reasons. It makes us think, it outlasts time, and sometimes, it can make us laugh and relax.
While art can come from the mind and spirit, sometimes it can be inspired by a person or thing.
"I really like art that captures human emotions," Badiei said. "One of my favorite artists right now is Agnes Cecile. She primarily does watercolor portraits, but they capture so much emotion and they're so striking to look at. I'm still trying to figure out my own style, but I find myself attracted to drawing people when they aren't posing — you catch a lot of vulnerability in that moment and that makes the artwork much more meaningful."
Sometimes, it's difficult to be creative and academic at the same time. Yet, as both student and artist, Badiei has excelled in and out of the classroom.
"As a student, [Badiei] asked a lot of good questions and learned very quickly about the concepts and materials we used in class," art professor Foon Sham said. "She responded to my instructions very well and produced excellent projects. As an artist, she grew in developing ideas and acquired different techniques, more importantly paid attention to details."
Although Badiei primarily does art as a hobby, over time, she has used her gift in the arts to gift other people.
"Gradually, my friends, family, and teachers at school would request paintings or portraits," Badiei said. "It became a tradition for me to give personalized paintings as gifts for special occasions. You can really pour your emotions and love for someone into a piece of art to make something meaningful and unique that will last a lifetime."
Badiei says juggling two majors at once is difficult, and all the more so if the two majors seem to be opposites.
"It can be pretty difficult balancing the two. Both areas of study demand a lot of time and effort, especially if you want to do a good job," Badiei said. "During the day, I'll mostly work on work for my STEM classes, but I'll spend long evenings at the studio to finish up art projects. I remember one time last semester, I was in the studio from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. the next morning and watched the sun rise while driving back to my dorm."
The arts have captured people for millennia, from cave paintings over 40,000 years ago to cult films like Mean Girls in the mid-2000s. Even with such greats over the centuries, art has only recently begun to be truly accepted as something more than eye candy.
For someone who has interests in both STEM and art, Badiei has been able to see the beauty of both and incorporate them in her own life.
"Art has this ability to capture an essence that is impossible to describe with words," Badiei said. "We can look at the paintings of any great artist in history and see a reflection of their life in the moment that they existed. It takes a lot of courage to make yourself vulnerable as an artist … And when people see that kind of work, they can instantly feel a connection. A great artist has no need for any words or explanation — just their artwork is enough to share a piece of themselves with people all around the world, no matter their race, creed, or religion."
When not creating art or studying biology, one can find Badiei at The Coffee Bar in Stamp studying, drinking coffee or browsing through the artwork made by students, or serving as the resident assistant for a freshman dorm on North Campus.