STEM and Needles

Dr Irene Suarez-Martinez is a scientist based in Western Australia who designs clothes inspired by the projects that she is working on.  She has loaned us three pieces for this exhibition, her Graphene Skirt, Cell membrane cowl and “Dislocated” Paco Rabanne.  You can see more on her work and designs at her website

Graphene Skirt

This skirt was Dr Suarez-Martinez’s first “science garment”. The skirt features the band structure of graphene and it is the best outfit for when she lectures Solid State Physics.

Graphene was the reason for the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 to Prof Geim and Prof Novoselov and it is the thinnest material known (just one atom thick!).

Band structures describe the energy of electrons that are allowed in a solid, and the band structure of graphene is particularly interesting because it has a conical shape.

The skirt features the band structure in two dimensions which means that the same pattern is repeated all around the skirt. I worked out the appropriate times to repeat the pattern so that it matches perfectly around the hem of the skirt.  The bands are embroidered by hand, I used different colours to make them more impactful.

The base of this denim skirt was made following the pattern Yasmin Yoke by Maria Denmark

Atomic orbitals necklace

Don’t be fooled, this is not a normal necklace. Each bead is an atomic orbital, representing the way that electrons (one of the parts of an atom) are located.

Electrons sit at discrete energy levels in the atom. Each level has one or more atomic orbital, which are represented by a volume in which the electron move around for that particular level and orbital.

The necklace shows the levels from 1 to 3, each on one string. On level 1, there is only one orbital, a spherical orbital (also called “s”). On level 2, there are four atomic orbitals, one spherical and three with a “8” shape (“p”). On level 3, there is one s, three “p” and five “d” orbitals.

This piece was selected for the online exhibition “Craft Front and Center” at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.

‘Dislocated’ Paco Rabanne

Her final version ended up with 6 dislocations, two at the front and four at the back.

Rabanne chose to rotate the lattice by 45 degrees, we can say that is cut on the bias (sewing terms) or along the <11> direction of the lattice (crystallography terms).  Dr Suarez-Martinez followed the same orientation and added in her dislocations. The front dislocations on her dress are <10> edge dislocations. Each pair of dislocations on the back could be added together and seen as a <11> edge dislocation.