Education reporter Haydn Lewis reports on a hi-tech school project that combines science and art.

WHAT do Vic Reeves, the Queen and Terry Pratchett have in common?

The answer is that students at a York secondary school would like them all to have their brains examined for their school project.

Pupils at Archbishop Holgate's CE School were asked who they would like to take part their project which would involve an MRI brain scan, and these were just some of the names they came up with.

The project, called Me, Myself And MRI, is a collaboration between the school and York-based arts partnership Geodesic Arts, which has been awarded funding by the Wellcome Trust and Arts Council England to lead the innovative sci-art scheme.

The project aims to explore the idea of individuality using contemporary neuro-imaging technology, photography and audio-video work and will result in a touring exhibition of digital portraits that will visit three regional venues in 2008/09.

Six people will be chosen by Year 8 students from the school to take part in the project, and they are currently making approaches to a list of well-known people in the public eye.

The selection will be based on the question: "What makes us individual?" and could focus on anything from their career, their background to their everyday lives.

The chosen subjects will be invited to undergo an MRI scan as well as sit for a photographic portrait and take part in video and audio interviews.

The resulting data and footage will be transformed into a series of digital portraits.

The project team has been working with Year 8 students from Archbishop Holgate's since the beginning of the year.

James Evans, the school's head of science, explained why the school got involved. He said: "It is an exciting, collaborative project that has engaged the pupils, teachers and outside agencies.

"It is an opportunity to celebrate developments in science, explore the ethical issues raised and marry them with the creativity and expression of art."

He believes the project is significant to the pupils because it enables them "to experience the wow' factor of science and art with inspirational people".

As well as learning about creative digital technology, the students are also exploring the development of contemporary neuro-imaging techniques such as MRI and MEG and the science behind them.

Members of staff at York Neuro-imaging Centre are acting as scientific advisors to the project, explaining how modern-day techniques have developed, investigating ethical issues surrounding these techniques and carrying out MRI scans on the people selected to take part in the project.

The pupils involved have relished the chance to experience contemporary science first-hand.

Elliot Crowe, a Year 8 student at the school, said: "I thought it would be something new and exciting to try. It's not very often you get an opportunity to do something like this."

The students are also finding out more about the development of portraiture as an art form, and the links between science and the arts as they are working with an art historian to discover how art and science together can help us make sense of the world around us.

Francesca Smith, a student taking part in the work, said: "I like this project - it's kind of different because we're doing art and science together."

Clare Matterson, the Wellcome Trust's director of medicine, society and history, said: "This innovative project will enable young people to develop an understanding of the science behind MRI scans.

"By engaging in a creative and accessible way with science and technology, they will explore ideas about the individual and self from scientific and cultural perspectives."

Work on the project started in January and the final exhibition is due to be launched at the National Science Learning Centre this autumn, before touring York Hospital and Impressions Gallery, Bradford, in 2009.

The project forms part of the year-round community and education programme of SightSonic, York's International Festival Of Digital Arts.