URI oceanography student creates event that harnesses shared creativity, discovery in sciences and arts

Premier of Synergist Volumes series is Oct. 28 in Providence

Media Contact: Carol McCarthy, 401-874-4147 |

NARRAGANSETT, R.I., Oct. 23, 2018 — The sciences and the arts are often perceived as distinct and disparate spheres, as different as fire and ice. Now, a student at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography has organized a series of events that brings those worlds together through creativity and exploration.

Megan Lubetkin, a master’s degree student in geological oceanography at GSO and a Providence-based musician, created Synergist Volumes, which debuts at 7 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 28, at AS220, 115 Empire St., Providence. The premiere event, Synergist Volume I, will include live performances, stories of discovery, geometric robots, painted interactions, aquatic soundscapes, ancient corals, and submarine lava. Co-organizer for the event is Kevin Rosa, a doctoral candidate in physical oceanography at the GSO.

The mission of Synergist is to expand community engagement in the sciences and arts by creating a space for artists and scientists to showcase their work, inspire one another and celebrate their explorations, Lubetkin said.

“I’ve found myself split between a research-driven community of scientists at the GSO and a community of artists, musicians and designers while at home. Both scientists and artists rarely interact and chat in a casual setting outside of formal institutions,” she explained. “Museums, universities, and K-12 schools have success with mixing STEM and the arts, but often there are large groups of adults that are not attracted to such formal programs. My goal with Synergist is to create a space for these groups to interact and share their work with the public.”

Lubetkin contends that artists and scientists — who equally rely on creative exploration and experimentation — share a special curiosity and passion for exploring what they do not understand and trying to make sense of it.

Each event, or volume, in the Synergist series will focus on a different theme and will feature explorers such as oceanographers, musicians, astronomers, designers, engineers, filmmakers, chemists, architects, mathematicians and painters, among others. These diverse groups will come together to create an impact greater than what each could achieve alone, she said. They will share stories of discovery and present live performances centered around the evening’s theme.

Synergist Vol. I – Deepstaria enigmatica explores an ocean motif that is deep, mysterious and complex. The evening’s stories, musical performances and art will be inspired by the ocean and the beings that inhabit its depths. Deepstaria enigmatica, which represents the evening’s vast ocean theme, is a rarely encountered deep ocean organism, a translucent jellyfish with geometric net structures and lava-lamp-like movements, that was recently observed offshore in the Pacific.

“Sharing some of the incredible work being done at the GSO with people in Providence is something that rarely happens. Launching the Synergist Volumes at the end of October was an excellent opportunity to share ocean science with the Ocean State while promoting Question 2 and funding for GSO,” she said.

In addition to Lubetkin and Rosa, several other members of URI are involved with Synergist Volume I:

  • Brennan Phillips, featured speaker and professor of ocean engineering, College of Engineering
  • Kelton McMahon, featured speaker and assistant professor of biological oceanography, GSO
  • Alex DeCiccio, filmmaker/documentarian and media specialist at GSO’s Inner Space Center
  • Ryan Campos, featured deep-sea experimental musician and audio engineer at GSO’s Inner Space Center.

Other artists and performers include:

  • Dan Dodd, deep-ocean musician and visual artist, and event co-organizer
  • Alan Hazard, featured speaker and Narragansett Indian Tribe wampum artisan
  • Eleanor Olson, featured speaker/performer and ocean painter, visual artist and Rhode Island School of Design Nature Lab student employee.


URI’s Narragansett Bay Campus is home to the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, one of the world’s premier oceanographic institutions. Founded in 1961, GSO has built a reputation for excellence in deep water oceanographic research, coastal planning and management, sustainable fisheries and monitoring the health of Narragansett Bay. With operations, researchers, faculty and students worldwide, the Bay Campus education and outreach programs train the next generation of scientists and policymakers, while ensuring Rhode Island’s K-12 teachers and students gain an appreciation for the importance of ocean science through a variety of hands-on programs. 

On Nov. 6, Rhode Islanders will vote on Question 2, a $70 million higher education general obligation bond that includes $45 million for upgrades to the Narragansett Bay Campus. If approved, proceeds from the bond will be used to improve the GSO’s pier (required to accommodate a newly awarded Regional Class Research Vessel from the National Science Foundation worth about $125 million), construct a 20,000-square-foot Ocean Technology building, a Marine Operations building and fund other necessary improvements to campus facilities.