Where Science and Art Meet

The University of Mary Washington is a unique meeting place for science and art. UMW’s physician, Dr. Tom Riley, epitomizes the two coming together in full force.

Dr. Tom Riley, university physician and director of the health center, looks at his artwork on his iPad

Riley, who also is director of the Student Health Center, has focused on science and health since adolescence. After college, he worked at a private family practice for 23 years before coming to UMW in 2007. Many don’t realize that he has been an artist for just as long.

The blend of Riley’s artistic and scientific talents is manifested in the giant murals that embellish the walls of the newly renovated Mason and Randolph residence halls. The murals are enlarged versions of Riley’s panoramic photographs of the James, York and the Rappahannock rivers.

“I had to do a lot of different things to get those murals to that size,” said Riley. Each mural is about 8 feet high. The longest one is 104 feet, and took 55 individual pictures to create.

His photos offer an aesthetic delight in and of themselves, and not surprisingly, Riley used science to perfect the murals. The photographs required specific lenses and lens angles and numerous computer software programs including Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop to create. Riley also has become an expert with high dynamic range (HDR) imaging.

Tom Riley created the murals in Mason and Randolph halls, which depict the James, York and Rappahannock Rivers

“I enjoy the mental challenge of looking at something and showing it in some way you wouldn’t normally see it,” said Riley.

That attitude is apparent in the distinctive way he captured a flowing waterfall or the detail that comes through in a National Geographic-worthy image of an arched rock structure in Utah.

Riley’s photographs also line the walls outside his office in Lee Hall. Many feature Lee Hall itself, covered in a blanket of snow or surrounded by leaves.

Excited for autumn to arrive on campus, Riley said that, “It’s hard to take a bad photo at this university in the fall.”


– by Charlotte Rodina ’13

About Brynn Boyer

Brynn Boyer is assistant director of media and public relations and a 2010 graduate of UMW.

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