Mural at Sylvania Celebrates Diversity in Science

By Alyssa Halbisen|November 4, 2016News, Sylvania|

Last week, on the 300 level of the ST building at Sylvania campus, a mural was unveiled that was created in collaboration with students and staff highlighting the accomplishments of modern scientists. Ted Picciottio, a chemistry instructor for PCC, took lead of the project with Sylvania faculty member Mark Smith, student Olivia Crisp, the student writer for the biographies of the scientists adjacent to the mural as well as art students Rich, Vanessa and Shannen responsible for the painting and design of the mural.

Ted Picciottio, a Chemistry instructor for PCC, has been teaching on the collegiate level since 2006. Beginning in his birthplace of Oakland, CA, he has been a part of our team since 2009.

In an interview with Picciottio, he gave us insight on the ideas behind leading this creation.

Why did you paint the mural?
My idea came from a diversity training held by PCC led by Dr. Leticia Nieto called Beyond Diversity held fall 2013. I reached out to administration, the multicultural center, librarians, the art department and students to get the ball rolling. It was important to me that students see that modern scientists are more than the european white males that dominate traditional physical science textbooks. I wanted people to see everyone is welcome in our department and that we support all students in the physical sciences.

Why did you choose the scientists you chose?

It was actually a rather complicated process. The goal was to try and choose scientists who largely achieved their success in the US. We wanted a range of scientists that were roughly equally representing the 3 fields of Physics, Chemistry and Geology. We wanted balanced gender in terms of 4 men and 4 women, and we wanted to highlight scientists typically underrepresented in the physical sciences. The selected scientists were vetted by the multicultural center (specifically Clifford Meeks), Women’s Resource Center, and physical science students, faculty and staff.

How was the design for the mural chosen?

We knew we wanted portraits and a way to visually represent the scientists accomplishments. Mark Smith had the idea of vignettes surrounding the portraits with this in mind. The final design was vetting by the Physical Science faculty and staff as well as the others listed above involved in the project.

Is there anything you liked the most about the creation and work put into the mural?

The writing of the biographies that surround the mural with Olivia Crisp were more time consuming than anticipated but really helped us connect to the struggles of the scientists. We hope that students take the time to read those as well! 🙂 We hope it adds to the welcoming and inclusive environment of the PCC Sylvania campus and inspires students to believe that they too can succeed in the physical sciences.

The scientists Picciottio and his team chose to recognize are: Nuclear Physicist Frederick Begay, Biochemist Marie M. Daly, Geologist Kenneth J. Hsu, Oceanographer Marie Tharp, Atmospheric Chemist Mario J. Molina, Geophysicist Claudia J. Alexander, Nuclear Chemist James A. Harris and Astronaut Ellen Ochoa.

Along with Picciottio, I had the pleasure of interviewing Olivia Crisp. Crisp is a second year student at PCC. She has received the Oregon Space Grant Consortium Scholarship and is also a recipient of the PCC Foundation Scholarship. She is currently pursuing a transfer degree at PCC with focus in the sciences or engineering.

In collaboration with Ted, he and Olivia worked extensively on the biographies of each scientist. She was most excited about the mural because she believes “that diversity enriches not only the scientists, but every field”.

All members of this collaboration deserve to be recognized for their hard work in the exemplary portrayal of the inclusive environment at PCC.

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