Natalie Jeremijenko

Every once in a while, an engineer comes along whose work combines different disciplines in a way that is both fascinating and inspiring. Natalie Jeremijenko is one such engineer.

A modern-day Renaissance woman, Jeremijenko challenges traditional approaches to problem solving with such initiatives as zip-lines to speed kids to school or The Environmental Health Clinic, where “im-patients” come in with environmental health concerns and leave with creative prescriptions to help solve these issues:

Making no distinction between science and art, she develops unconventional, even playful projects for museums and educational applications alike.

Jeremijenko’s career path so far has been anything but boring. After completing academic work in a variety of fields, organizing a rock festival, and speaking at the 2010 TED conference, she now serves as an associate professor of visual art at New York University. She has completed graduate and Ph.D.-level work in an astonishing variety of fields, including history, neuroscience, mechanical engineering, computer science, and electrical engineering, and is uniquely skilled at blurring the lines between these disciplines through interactive, experimental art.

In this TED talk she highlights a few of her recent projects:

Her work is described as experimental design, hence xDesign, as it explores opportunities presented by new technologies for social and political change. For example, in 2005 Jeremijenko introduced a pack of environmentally-sensitive, “feral” robotic dogs to various student groups in the NYC area. These toy dogs had been reprogrammed to detect chemical pollutants and then “set loose” in local parks to patrol. Upon sensing contamination, they bark, roll over, and play dead. Other projects of hers include installations of cloned trees in pairs in various urban micro-climates, a statistical index linking the Dow Jones to the suicide rate at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, and interactive interfaces for zoos.

No matter what media and methods are employed, it’s clear that Jeremijenko’s unique marriage of art and engineering is one that will continue to surprise, delight, provoke, and educate a multitude of minds.