DegreeMechanical Engineering and Computer Science ’19
"I’m really willing to learn new things every day, and I’m always trying to explore new areas of expertise. Art history is something that I wasn’t expecting to study at Duke University—very far from it, considering I came here for mechanical engineering and computer science. But Professor Daubechies helped me get into this project and sparked my interest in this."
In 2015, Raphael Kim, a Duke first-year student with a passion for math, responded to a flier seeking help with an image processing project.
Two years and one centuries-old painting later, he’s on a team at the forefront of art conservation.
“It’s totally not what I expected,” Kim said.
Kim’s project began when the North Carolina Museum of Art planned on exhibiting eight existing panels of Francescuccio Ghissi’s 14th-century altarpiece depicting the life of St. John alongside a recent reconstruction of the missing ninth panel.
Using image processing algorithms, the Bass Connections team, led by mathematics professor Ingrid Daubechies and featuring mathematics, computer science and mechanical engineering students, virtually aged the new panel to fit with the others. Using the same techniques, the group refreshed the old panels, allowing the museum to feature a rendering of the piece as it looked 650 years ago.
Members of the team, including Kim, are working on ways to weave these image rejuvenation techniques into a mobile app.
“It’s pretty funny because, when I came to it, I had no idea I’d be working on something like art history,” Kim said.