Nina Arens

Seattle, WA, US
Field of Work 
museum education
Pop-Up Science; Institute for Systems Biology
Job Title or "Student" 
Director; Research Associate
Seattle University; Gothenburg University
BS. Biology; MS. International Museum Studies
Education Level 
Profile Biography 
Nina Arens is a molecular biologist, an artist, and a teacher. By day, she works in a biotech lab—manipulating DNA, growing single-cell organisms, and working with teams of researchers—but by night, she runs Pop-Up Science, Seattle’s only pop-up museum dedicated to science, technology, and creativity.

As a girl, Nina loved to take complex ideas and tease them apart into simple pieces. She wasn't one for puzzles; instead, she was fascinated with how living systems worked. She played in the woods a lot--observing birds, digging in the soil, watching seasons change. In addition to her love of nature, Nina was also a good artist. Everything she observed, she drew in notebooks in color, pen, or paint. Growing up, Nina noticed that when it came to her two interests, people tended to praise her for her achievements in art over science. She always found this perplexing; to her, being an artist or a scientist was one and the same thing.

After getting her undergraduate degree in biology from Seattle University, Nina started working at the Institute for Systems Biology in genetics research. She saw firsthand that today's science truly IS for creative and interdisciplinary people. Like her, many of her colleagues at ISB had interests in biology or chemistry, but also music, cooking, sculpture, and dance. Over her first two years out of college, she grew increasingly upset by the amount of volunteering she did in classrooms that taught kids that scientists weren't creative or social. She discovered that science museums were particularly bad---and realized that museums might be a wonderful way to bring her love of art, science, and communication together in one career.

In 2010, Nina left her job at the lab to move to Sweden and study science museums full-time. Over two years, she toured over 80 science museums and discovery centers across the U.S., the U.K, Europe, and Scandinavia---looking at what they showed, how scientists were portrayed, and whether art was ever integrated into their exhibitions. She found that art and science CAN and IS taught together in other countries, and headed home dedicated to bring what she learned to Seattle.

Nina became a teacher, curator, and curriculum writer for education organizations all over the city. She wrote and taught curriculum for Pacific Science Center for three years; in 2012, she helped organize high-end arts-science events for the Seattle Science Festival. She worked as a video game instructor and Mindstorm robotics expert for Technology Access Foundation; in 2014, she brought 14,000 LEGOs to Seattle schools as a Play-Well TEKnologies LEGO Engineering teacher. Finding work in that emphasized creativity in science wasn't always easy, but Nina tried hard to build and learn skills every where she went.

In 2014, Nina finally started her own science museum---Pop-Up Science, a small mobile museum that travels all over Seattle neighborhoods to bring citizens and scientists together in their communities. Today, she helps other scientists and educators get the skills and resources they need to be activists for science learning in their own neighborhoods. She still works as a biologist for the Institute for Systems Biology, but now she gets the best of both worlds in a job that with no academic boundaries.
Travel, Other
Race & Ethnicity 
Level of Participation 
Online role model
My Experience 
I am a new Role Model.
Career exploration activities, Fun demonstrations or materials, Funding opportunities, Hands-on activities for students, Identifying other role models
Program Affiliation 
Other Interests 
Art, drawing, teaching, cooking

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