Through their lens: Sarah Zhang gets a dose of film studies with her HIV research

This summer we’re sponsoring high school interns in stem cell labs throughout California. We asked those students to contribute to our Instagram photos and YouTube videos about life in the lab, and write about their experiences.

Sarah Zang did a stem cell research internship this summer in the laboratory of Gerhard Bauer at UC Davis. Part of the Creativity Award program required that students study a second subject outside the field of science as a way of promoting creative thinking.

Gerhard Bauer working with his film projector. Sarah Zhang submitted this photo to our #CIRMStemCellLab Instagram feed.

(Sarah also submitted a blog entry about her research project, which you can read here.)

This summer, in addition to being exposed to the world of regenerative medicine, I was also exposed to the world of film, or more specifically, the history of the motion pictures. My name is Siruo Zhang, and for the past two months, I was taught about films by my lab’s PI, Dr. Gerhard Bauer. Every Thursday afternoon, all of the CIRM creativity students at UC Davis gathered in the meeting room for a lecture on the history of films by Dr. Bauer. During the past eight weeks, I learned things from how black and white films came to become colored to how sounds became possible to be shown alongside films.

In 1888, Thomas Alva Edison had the idea to invent a device that is able to record and then reproduce objects in motion; he called this invention a “Kinetoscope”. Edison’s assistant, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, turned Edison’s idea into practical reality, and the first motion picture camera was born. The Kinetograph is a camera that creates films for the Kinetoscope. It was large and bulky, so it remained stationary. As for the kinetoscope, it enables people to watch films by looking through the lens at the top of the machine. It had its disadvantages, because only one person is allowed to watch the film at one time. Also, since the film is continuously ran through the Kinetoscope, it is often worn out very quickly. Over the next few years, better machines that were able to record and reproduce moving objects were invented. They were capable of being moved and were able to produce vibrant colors.

As a conclusion to our classes on the history of the films, we were invited to Dr. Bauer’s home to watch actual films from the nineteen hundreds in his private movie theater. We watched several short films, including Mickey Mouse, The Three Little Pigs, and Sherlock Holmes. I was astounded by the amazing image qualities and vivid colors of the films. I was also surprised that learn that for animated cartoons, each frame was hand-drawn, and to think that if a total of 24 frames were ran per second, for a cartoon that is only eight minutes, 11,520 frames needed to be hand-drawn. I’m definitely glad I got to learn so much about films and to actually watch some that were from film reels.

Sarah Zhang

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