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Feature in Science Magazine

July 29, 2012

I am very happy to report that I am featured in this week’s science magazine! The magazine isn’t freely available online but I am posting just the little section on me here in case anyone is interested in reading it!

Facing the Genetic Future

Sitting in a therapist’s office, New York City artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg discovered a hair

lodged in a crack in the glass covering a painting on the wall. “I stared at it for an hour,”

she says. “I couldn’t stop wondering who it belonged to, and what I could find out about

that person.”

After reading a story in Science about the new field of forensic DNA phenotyping

(18 February 2011, p. 838), Dewey-Hagborg decided to turn her fascination into an art

project. She collected 11 hairs left around the city by strangers and learned how to test their

DNA at a genetics lab. Now, she’s printing three dimensional masks, or approximations, of those

people’s faces, which will be on display—along with her own—in a January exhibition called Stranger

Visions. The masks reflect eye color, geographical roots, sex, and other traits, but not exact facial

features because forensic phenotyping can’t fill in all the details. But it might one day, and with ever

cheaper sequencing, an era of “genetic surveillance” is looming, says Dewey-Hagborg. “As a society, we

need to have a discussion about that.”

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