Maker Jam: From Donor to Data

The virtual Maker Jam ran from 10 – 18 June 2021. Over the course of ten days digital artists, designers, makers and creative technologists gathered online to explore aspects of Human Cell Atlas science, From Donor to Data through art and creativity. Participants brought their talents and skills to explore the importance of tissue and open access data donation for progressing research and medicine. Everything from team building through to artists feedback and support was coordinated over the discussion platform called Discord.

Participants committed a few hours every day to create responses to one of four challenges set by our commissioned One Cell At A Time artists; Anna Macdonald, boredomresearch, Baum & Leahy and Stacey Pitsillides. These challenges were framed by each artists’ particular mode of inquiry into the scientific research of the Human Cell Atlas and were underpinned by the question “What influences peoples’ value and trust in research involving tissue donation and open access data?”.

Maker Jam Challenges

Inspired by the process of matching organs from those donating to those receiving them, Anna Macdonald challenged Maker Jammers to explore the potential of technologies for matching and different processes of searching (scrolling, tracking, reading, pattern matching) and to explore what might be matched with what.

Artist duo boredomresearch were exploring cycles of cellular overreaction known as ‘cytokine storms’ and invited Maker Jammers to play, experiment and gamify these cellular interactions. Participants were provided with resources, software tools and simulation code examples, developed from Conway’s Game of Life, as a starting point to create their own visual expression of a dysfunctional immune system.

Baum and Leahy asked participants to consider how we can use our senses as entry points to navigate our cellular bodies. Maker Jamers were asked to explore ways to support encounters with scientific data on an emotional and spiritual level, whilst honouring the donation process that has helped build this new knowledge.

Stacey Pitsillides’ challenge was to explore how we can map our personal emotional responses to donating our bodies and data post-death using simple tools that allow interaction through space and geography.

Maker Jammers interpreted the challenges through a range of media from code, technology and maker-based experiments responses through to artistic, craft, narrative and multimedia works.


One Cell At A Time team:

Dominic Smith (Maker Jam facilitator), Justine Boussard, Fusion Arts, Cambridge Junction

Maker Jam Speakers:


Oron Catts, Julie Freeman, Daniel Canagor and Gina Czarneki

Human Cell Atlas members:

Prof Holm Uhlig (Oxford University),

Krishnaa Mahbubani (CBTM, University of Cambridge),

Elo Maddissoon (Data Analyst, Wellcome Sanger Institute)

and Wei Theng The (EMBL – EBI).

PhD students and Post doctoral researchers from Haniffa Lab, Newcastle University and

Human Cell Atlas members from EMBL-EBI who delivered lunch time public presentations session about their work.