University of Pennsylvania

Theme: Energy

From microbial fuel cells to next-generation biodiesel to closed-loop living systems, biology provides a spectrum of new ways to reenvision how we can power our world. This fall, design students from University of Pennsylvania will explore how to harness living things to power our built environment. More information about the class can be found at


Mónica Butler, Rebecca Van Sciver, Jiwon Woo

Latin for support, Stabilimentum is a couture mask that filters air using live spiders and the electrostatic properties of their silk. Inspired by the symbiotic relationship between humans and the microbiome, the fashion accessory creates a symbiosis between human and arachnid.


Rebecca Hallac, Vincent Snagg

This smart bracelet automatically sprays surfaces with customized probiotics, containing Staphylococcus epidermidis, a bacterial strain that protects the skin from pathogens. The team developed a functional version that pairs with a computer keyboard to prevent MRSA infection in hospitals.


James Bartolozzi, Sarah Krueger, Morgan Snyder

How should we remediate greenhouse gases emanating from the ocean floor? Seepscape imagines an industry that harvests methane seeps using high surface-area blocks called gyroids, covered with methane-digesting bacteria Pseudomonas putida. Ships drop these blocks on the ocean floor, and months later harvest the ecosystem growing on them for commerce and industry.


Jenny Ho, Wing D. So

Cicadas are famous for the uniquely powerful song they make using a set of membranes, or tymbals, within the thorax. Inspired by the insect, Khitophany is a bio-instrument similar to these tymbals, made from chitosan, an industrial polymer derived from insect shells. The team wired chitosan tambourines to large amplifiers as part of an musical performance and installation piece. 

See more of UPenn's projects on their Biological Design website.


Orkan Telhan is interdisciplinary artist, designer and researcher whose investigations focus on the design of interrogative objects, interfaces, and media, engaging with critical issues in social, cultural, and environmental responsibility.

Telhan is Assistant Professor of Fine Arts - Emerging Design Practices at University of Pennsylvania, School of Design. He holds a PhD in Design and Computation from MIT's Department of Architecture. He was part of the Sociable Media Group at the MIT Media Laboratory and the Mobile Experience Lab at the MIT Design Laboratory.

He studied Media Arts at the State University of New York at Buffalo and theories of media and representation, visual studies and Graphic Design at Bilkent University, Ankara.

Telhan's individual and collaborative work has been exhibited internationally in venues including the 13th Istanbul Biennial, 1st Istanbul Design Biennial, the Armory Show 2015 Special Projects, Ars Electronica, ISEA, LABoral, Archilab, Architectural Association, the Architectural League of New York, MIT Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York. His work can be found at

Karen Hogan, Ph.D., is a Teaching Laboratory Coordinator in the Department of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Hogan received her B.S. in Environmental Biology from the University of Dayton and completed her Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolution with an emphasis in microbial and stream ecology from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to her current position, Dr. Hogan worked in the Department of Biology as a Laboratory Instructor. Additionally, Dr. Hogan has worked as a field biologist for the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and consulted on water quality studies for the Philadelphia Water Department and the American Water Works Association.


Banner image: Michael D. Beckwith, The Leeds Library