The Art of Science

Professional and personal interests intertwine in Adam Shulman’s life as a medical physicist, photographer, and philanthropist


An MTSU Honors College alumnus who has spent much of his life mining “The Gold of Africa” put some of it on display this spring.

Adam Shulman’s first solo photography exhibition, entitled “The Gold of Africa,” was on view April 1–May 6 at Tinney Contemporary Art Gallery in Nashville.

Shulman, a self-taught photographer, took the pictures while working as a medical physicist in Senegal, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Ghana, and Qatar. “The Gold of Africa” is a result of two divergent careers melded into a creative process. Each model in the exhibit, showcasing beautiful African bodies covered in what appears to be golden, cracked, desert earth, captivates the viewer with overwhelming power and beauty.

“I’ve always had a deep desire to create, to capture my own perception of beauty in the world. I’ve also been fascinated by science, questioning the world around me from an early age,” he said. “Science and art, seemingly two divergent realms, have intertwined throughout my life. I’ve found science to be one of the purest forms of art.”

Shulman spent over a year shooting and editing the “Gold” series, which consists of 19 images and five behind-the-scenes videos showing Shulman and the models in action. He used a Mamiya RZ67 manual camera and 6-by-7-centimeter film, which he felt would result in larger, crisper images.

The dynamic images of black men and women decorated with gold in various positions on the bodies create a startling contrast as Shulman attempts to convey that the “gold” in Africa is not in a precious metal, but in the hearts and souls of its people.

Shulman, a Nashville native, worked for more than seven years in medical philanthropy throughout Africa. He is the senior medical physicist at the National Center for Cancer Care and Research in Doha, Qatar, and a project director and trustee for Radiating Hope, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving radiation oncology around the world.

He also has advised leading cancer centers on African projects, including the Dana Farber Cancer Center and Massachusetts General Hospital, both in Boston, and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas medical school in Houston.

A proud product of the University Honors College, Shulman graduated summa cum laude from MTSU with a bachelor’s degree in Physics in 2007. He chose to seek a career in medical physics after meeting his mentor, Victor Montemayor.

“I was unaware of the profession until I met Dr. Montemayor in the Physics Department,” Shulman said. “At the time, I was a math major. He explained that the math I loved was created by physicists to describe the world around them. I took a Physics class and I was hooked!”

At MTSU, Shulman was runner-up for the Provost’s Award, awarded annually to the student who best demonstrates outstanding academic achievement through involvement in scholarly activities. He earned his master’s degree in Medical Physics from Vanderbilt University in 2009.

A few years after graduating from Vanderbilt, Shulman immersed himself in medical philanthropy. He was published multiple times in academic journals, initiated a free medical physics training program for physicists in Sub-Saharan Africa, discussed medical endeavors with the Senegalese Ministry of Health, and is the recipient of a multimillion-dollar National Institutes of Health grant. “My friends in New York City used to constantly laugh at me because of my uncanny abilities to multitask,” Shulman said. “In one day, I could do a sunrise photoshoot, spend a couple hours working on projects in Africa, then go to a casting.”

Over the past eight years or so, Shulman has been immersed in both fashion and medical philanthropy. He his and wife have lived between New York City, Dakar, Accra, and now Doha.

“Throughout my time in West Africa, I have seen the most beautiful aspects of the African people, style, culture, and land,” he said. “I’ve seen local African medical professionals take what little resources they have to save lives; families and friends share their homes, food, laughter and tears; a striking beauty in the human form as well as a harmony between the people and their environment. Through all of this, I have seen the beauty of life in its purest form in the people of Africa.”

Shulman currently has two photography projects in development. He is shooting one in the deserts of Qatar, tentatively titled “The Transfigurations of Earth.” The second project will be a juxtaposition of history and fashion, featuring Arabic women in the hijab as the focal point, and will combine painting and photography.


For further information on Shulman’s upcoming projects or his current collection, “The Gold of Africa,” visit


By Gina K. Logue and Maz Rodriguez


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