Collaborative Course Bridges Art, HIV/AIDS Research

For the men and women affected by HIV/AIDS, their family members, and the researchers dedicated to finding a cure, time is always of the essence. A recent collaboration between GW’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) and the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences gave students a chance to explore the relationship of time and HIV/AIDS through the aesthetics of design.

Eight students, three MFA candidates and five undergraduates, explored how design can communicate the saga of AIDS—the hopes, the aspirations, the frustrations, and the realities of the disease—as part of the four-month course, “Design for Good.”

Participants designed and built timepieces that will be permanently displayed in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Tropical Medicine (MITM) lab space in Walter G. Ross Hall.

Dr. Douglas F. Nixon, the Ross Professor of Basic Research

Dr. Douglas F. Nixon, the Ross Professor of Basic Research

The innovative course was championed by Professorial Lecturer of Interior Architecture and Design Scott Jones and the Walter G. Ross Professor of Basic Science Research Douglas Nixon, chair of MITM.

“Researchers live and breathe their work every day, so it’s no longer new to them,” said Mr. Jones, who developed the elective’s curriculum and taught the inaugural course during the 2014 spring semester. “The value of a collaboration like this is that the designer, who has a layman’s perspective, sees things that might not be obvious to those in the field.”

To obtain various perspectives on the disease, the student designers toured Dr. Nixon’s newly constructed lab in Ross Hall and spoke with community volunteers who work with HIV/AIDS patients and their families.

“It’s absolutely phenomenal to see the realization of the effort and time that you put into this project,” Dr. Nixon told the students when they presented their timepieces. “Everyone who sees your work will see that time is an important factor in this infection. If we don’t do anything, then more people are going to get infected.”

He added that in the future, he hopes “interior design and medicine will meet again.”

A renowned HIV/AIDS researcher, Dr. Nixon came to GW in 2014 as the Ross Professor of Basic Research, which was created by a gift from the Walter G. Ross Foundation in 2006. Endowed professorships, like the one held by Dr. Nixon, are essential to recruiting the best faculty to educate GW students, conduct groundbreaking research, and work across disciplines to develop innovative curricula, like “Design for Good,” at GW.


Visit to learn how you can help Enhance Academics at GW as part of Making History: The Campaign for GW.

Read more about the “Design for Good” course on GW Today, GW’s primary source of news and information.

Author: GW Impact

Share This Post On

Leave a Reply