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Dr.  Paul R. Schimmel

“I want to know God’s thoughts… the rest are details”

Paul Schimmel is Ernst and Jean Hahn Professor at The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at The Scripps Research Institute. He was formerly the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics in the Department of Biology at MIT. The Schimmel Laboratory’s major research activities have concentrated on the decoding of genetic information, with an emphasis on the rules of the universal genetic code which are established through aminoacylation reactions catalized by a group of enzymes known as aminoacyl tRNA synthetases. The latter are believed by many to be among the first enzymes to arise on this planet in the early stages of the evolution of life.  More recently, light has been shed on genetic code development and its profound connection to disease. Whereas defects or mutations in genes and in enzymes have been connected to human disease, some of the additional functions of enzymes that arose from later evolutionary developments are believed highly significant for the prevention and treatment of disease.

Princeton artist Robert Cannon of Cannon design and landscape designer, Tom Taylor, and his crew from Caliper Farms have teamed up to represent visually  some of the central discoveries of the Schimmel Lab. Taylor sets the organic framework by the strategic placement of plants and stone. The initial sparseness of the exhibit - an almost stark-like quality which unfolds in the first 5 feet or so of the space - is meant to represent early stage evolution on this planet as triggered by catalyst enzymes aminoacyl tRNA synthetases. But as the viewer moves forward down a simple winding path of sand and then crushed gravel, order begins to emerge in the form of a formal stone path flanked by a more lush and ordered landscape. The signature shape of a twisted strand of DNA is instantly recognizable as Cannon has created an entire moving garden of such biological marvels. Each mirrored strand reflects off a silvery wall creating a most fantastical display of scientific discovery and wonder.   In a graceful nod to Schimmel,  Cannon explains,  “I have attempted to capture some of the sense of wonder and awe which I perceive in Schimmel’s work, the scientific process, and in the general process of knowing anything living  (up to the moniker homo sapiens). Specifically, Schimmel’s search for the molecular origins of life and his work with DNA and tRNA have provided me with the forms for the sculptures from which eminate complex patterns and higher levels of organization. Therefore, I see this piece as a display of some of his findings and as an experience of the monumentality of his search, the daring act of seeing in the patterns/reflections the underlying order/ sculpture of the universe.”

Sculptor: Robert Cannon, Cannon Design, 609.924.1987

Landscape Design: Tom Taylor, Caliper Farms, 908. 904.9446

Bamboo fencing: Suzanne Maison, Bamboo & Rattan Works, 732. 370. 0220

Facilitator: Katherine S. Baki, haut>art,  609. 275. 9146


Quark Park is being developed by Kevin Wilkes, AIA; Peter Soderman; and Alan Goodheart, ASLA. The World Hope Foundation has joined forces with this team to be the fiscal agent for the project. The World Hope Foundation mission supports self-determination in communities by bringing resources to community members and educational experts that are willing to step forward and enhance the lives of their children and elders. The Foundation is a qualified as a Federal 501 (c)(3) charitable organization and as such is eligible to solicit and support charitable causes.
World Hope Foundation
Web design and photos by Cie Stroud are © 2006

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