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Professor Harris Kagan during one of his holography workshops. Credit: Courtesy of Hannah Mishin

Ohio State professor fuses physics and art to create holographic designs

Holographic art will jump out at a person, literally. Professor Harris Kagan has been educating students about the 3-D images that marry science and art for 30 years, attracting students from all fields of study with his spontaneous teaching style and state-of-the-art lasers.

“If you like a very structured class, this isn’t the one for you,” Kagan said.

Kagan’s holography classes are offered as both art and physics courses, so they are filled with students from both areas of study.

Christian Cantrell, a fifth-year in electrical and computer engineering and three-time president of the Ohio State Holography Club, described the experience that comes with the class.

“The science students grasp the physics of the lecture and mechanics of the lab more easily, while the art students pick up the creative thought process and composition faster, but because the class is based on open discussions and critiques, everyone benefits from each other’s explanations and demonstrations with their holograms,” Cantrell said.

Cantrell described Kagan’s skills as a professor, stating that he encourages his students to think in new and different ways, his ultimate goal being that they grow as people.

“Dr. Kagan is passionate about getting his students to think as artists and scientists and breaking down the barrier between them,” he said.

Cantrell added that Kagan teaches his students the physics and practice behind holography, while pushing them to explore skill sets that are unfamiliar to them.

“There’s always resistance in the beginning when some of the students are forced to think artistically or scientifically for the first time in their life,” Cantrell said. “By the end everyone is comfortable with it and happy to have taken the class for it.”

2015 OSU alumnus Fred Needham also took Professor Kagan’s holography courses while pursuing his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. He said he appreciated the humor that Kagan brings to the classroom, as well as his expertise.

“He has a tremendous amount of understanding and experience with both the technical aspects of holography and the practice and composition of it,” Needham said.

As a part of the courses, students create a hologram to be displayed in an end-of-the-semester art show. The exhibit, which is free and open to all students, will be on display in Smith Lab on Dec. 7.

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