By Budd McLaughlin for The Huntsville Times
A bronze statue of an athletic figure greets visitors to the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Cummings Research Park.
Entitled the “Power of Thought,” the sculpture by Victor Issa is reflective of the work going on behind it.
On Friday, the public was invited to see what is going on behind the scenes at HudsonAlpha.
The third annual DNA Day featured tours of the facility, hands-on learning with DNA extractions, a new lab entitled Risky Business and a DNA art exhibition.
Dr. Neil Lamb, the institute’s director of educational outreach, presented “Biotech 101” and HudsonAlpha president and director Dr. Rick Myers spoke on the “State of the Institute.”
The 270,000-square-foot facility, which opened in November 2007, houses 13 private biotech research firms and a multimedia company, and there are seven investigators with the nonprofit institute.
Before the activities, Issa, after an introduction by HudsonAlpha co-founder Jim Hudson – who gave the statue to the institute, spoke of conceiving the idea for “Power of Thought,” how a single vision or thought could become material with the chance of changing the world.
“I am fascinated by what enhances this process, what forces hinder it,” he said. “What motives drive it? And what emotions drain it of its energy?”
Issa linked science, engineering and the arts in his work, where the base includes the Roman Colosseum, the Opera House in Sydney, Australia; a bust of Shakespeare; musical notes from Beethoven’s 5th Symphony; a transistor radio; Rodin’s “The Thinker” and Neil Armstrong’s footprint on the moon.
“Being an artist, I determined to include the arts … in pursuit of depicting technology, I decided to include the birthmarks of the tech age – the transistor radio,” Issa said. “Looking to the future, it was obvious to me that the biotech industry is now where technology was in the ’60s.
“That is a very exciting thought.”
Issa’s work tells an amazing story of, as he puts it, “the human journey.” A wheel becomes a steam train which morphs into a bullet train and into the DNA double helix on a track held by the statue’s right hand.
“I truly believe that as the invention of the wheel eventually led to the bullet train,” he said. “Genome technology will become the wheels that transport our understanding of life.
“I decided to honor the sciences by including a DNA sequence as a continuum of travel, because I sincerely believe that within your hands, heads and hearts lie enormous power and opportunity to move humanity to a different level of understanding.”
The statue’s left hand reaches upward and releases a Concorde supersonic jet, followed by the Wright brothers’ plane. Issa said he, as an artist, and the scientists at HudsonAlpha share a passion and a vision.
“You dream now and you have already changed the world,” Issa said.”You see what can be and ask ‘Why not?’ Then you pursue.
“Lead on, HudsonAlpha.”
Lead on, indeed.