Spotlight on Simultaneous STEM and Art Students

Imagine the familiar feeling of the looming 11:59 p.m. deadline, but on top of the two coding assignments, biology lab and math test, you also have to memorize lines and rehearse songs. This is the reality for some students in STEM. Multiple time-consuming assignments from classes most people would find impossible, and on top of it all, involvement in the arts.

Interest in the arts can sometimes correlate with interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; This is a phenomenon seen across history. Samuel Morse, the creator of Morse Code and the telegraph, was also a neoclassical painter. Leonardo Da Vinci had many famous works of art and, like a true Renaissance man, also broadened his horizons into science and astrology among many other areas of study. Looking at Point Loma Nazarene University students, the STEM programs are also filled with artistically talented individuals. 

For second-year Trip Morrow, it can be challenging juggling the structure and logic of the left brain with the imaginative right brain. Being a part of PLNU’s Concert Choir and majoring in data science, Morrow often runs into scheduling conflicts. 

Morrow said that being involved in data science and choir are very important to him for very different reasons. Getting to switch between the two seemingly opposite areas of study is something Morrow enjoys because they each align with different interests.

“Everything fits together like a giant puzzle,” said Morrow.

When it comes to choir, there are more boundaries that can be broken than there are with data science. Growing up in “Music City” Nashville, Tennessee, Morrow has been surrounded by arts and music his whole life. 

“I love the arts because for the most part, there are no right answers. The goal is connecting to emotions through music, visual arts, dancing, etc., so it’s very freeing in that aspect and gets me in touch with a more creative side of myself,” said Morrow.

Having the artistic freedom of choir meet with the more strict demands of data science is the perfect mix for Morrow. He says that the skills he’s developed from both avenues of interest have helped him in his everyday life. Being analytical and artistic creates a well-balanced person.

Helen Blackstone-Gardner is a first-year biology major who has been involved in theater her whole life. PLNU is in the process of attaining a theater club on campus, and Blackstone-Gardner is one member who is eager to get the theater department back up and running. 

“My biggest struggle is definitely figuring out how much time to spend working on my biology or chemistry homework versus going to meetings to discuss the next steps our theatre club is going to take,” said Blackstone-Gardner.

Balancing the time commitment that STEM classes require and still having moments throughout the week to turn on the creative side of the brain can be taxing.  

“A lot of times, STEM material can feel like it requires a lot of analytical thinking, so it’s nice to be able to see the creative sides every once in a while,” said Blackstone-Gardner.

Joe Vieira, a third-year software engineer and music double-major, understands the demands that STEM majors face, but also the importance of exploring one’s artistic talents. On top of working toward attaining his degree, Viera is a bass player in the Point Loma Chamber Orchestra.

“It is hard to switch my mindset from creating an algorithm to solve a complex problem, to extracting a beautiful piece of music from markings on a page,” Vieira said. “Both require different parts of the brain.”

While there are many reasons why double majoring in STEM and art make for a difficult schedule, there are also many benefits to being so well rounded, according to psychology professor, Max Butterfield. 

Butterfield said that the brain automatically balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain. But to keep the mind healthy and sharp Butterfield said that mental exercises along with maintaining social relationships and getting plenty of physical exercise ensure a healthy brain.

“In my opinion, the best mental exercises involve thinking deeply, creatively and often,” said Butterfield.

This is something that STEM and arts students do often.

Vieira said it best: “Rather than just being a vanilla STEM major, you are a STEM major with some… spice.”

Written By: Madelyn Walthall