Scifi Abstract Circles Element
Brain Icon
Clean Flat Ceramic Traditional Spanish Clay Vase
hand drawn Mola mola fish illustration.

Misha Oraa Ali

Hello, World!

I’m an artist and scientist who makes paintings, sculptures and functional ceramics inspired by marine biology, design engineering and data visualization. This website serves as a repository for my personal portfolio, resume and CV. I trained as a cognitive scientist, with research experience in psycholinguistics and behavioral neuroscience - you can find my latest CV here, and my art resume here.


Michelle 'Misha' Oraa Ali


Ceramic sculptures inspired by coral reef ecology, marine biology and mycology.

Hand-built using coils and 3D printed custom made tools

Bisque stage: 28 inch tall sculpture of a coral structure, hollowed out with the intention of converting it into a lamp.

Glazed internally with opalescent white glaze to promote light reflection

Installed a Bluetooth enabled dimmable light to act as ambient lighting. Cat for scale.

Rock Climbing Mugs

Primary Studio: Anyhow Studio in Providence, Rhode Island.


I live in a small apartment with minimal storage. Traditional mugs with curved handles that extend almost a radius away from the surface of the cylinder occupy a lot of space. But, smooth sided mugs aren't the best option for me - some kind of groove, indentation or grip helps me hold the mug. Can I make a functional cup has some kind of finger grip and is also sleek and streamlined enough in design and occupies less space than a standard mug?


Each idea I sketched out would reduce the volume if liquid that could be contained, compared to a straight sided vessel. Maybe I can consider external additions?

Final Outcome!

Laguna 55 Stoneware Clay, Cylinders thrown on a pottery wheel with sculpted rock climbing hold additions. Painted with underglaze and waxed prior to glazing in order to simulate the rough matter texture of real climbing holds.

Initial Ideas

A wheel-thrown mug showcasing intricate carving and textured details crafted with a custom 3D printed tool

Angelfish depicted in underglaze on a wheel-thrown bowl

Wheel thrown bowl and cup featuring Rubik’s Cube designs that were created by making a vinyl resist using Adobe Illustrator and Silhouette Studio.

Painting and Illustration

Parrotfish, made with gouache, watercolor and acrylic, 2021

Tardigrade, made with gouache, 2015

Pacman Frog, made with gouache and watercolor, 2022

Creating Experimental Stimuli for Cognitive Science Applications

Using my skills in digital art, graphic design, wood working and drawing along with my research experience in psycholinguistics, developmental psychology and cognitive science more broadly, I have designed and operationalized illustrations and visual corpora for use as appropriate stimuli for experiments in research studies. Clients and collaborators include researchers at Harvard University, UC Merced, University of Edinburgh, MIT, Mount Holyoke College, and Brown University.

MuSyC: Music, Synaesthesia, Colour

MuSyC is a project which aims at building a music to colour synaesthesia visualizer.

Synaesthesia is a neurological phenomenon in which perception of a certain stimulus, such as the musical note ‘A’, involuntarily elicits another seemingly unrelated sensation, such as seeing the colour red. As someone who sees colors when I listen to music, I've found it hard to explain what this cross-sensory activation feels like. To help share my experience, I wanted to create a portable device which did just that. Inspired by music visualizers, MuSyC is a multi-functional device which is sensitive to amplitude and frequency (or pitch) of a sound and flashes certain colours in response to particular defined notes.

Potential Use Cases

  • Allows non-synaesthetes to experience music from the eyes of a music-colour synaesthete
  • Accessability tool for Deaf and hard-of-hearing people to experience music visually.
  • Performance art tool to create dynamic and responsive light show installations
  • Educational tools for those beginning their training in music and those who need an additional visual cue to help distinguishing between closely related notes. For the untrained ear, it is very difficult to differentiate between the flat, whole and sharp note (F vs F#) and a color signal might be helpful!

Adafruit Neopixels

Adafruit Electret Microphone Amplifier MAX9814

Arduino Uno Board with Breadboard

Width: 53.4mm

Length: 68.6 mm

Battery Casing

Double A Batteries

Music Notes Icon
grunge arrow
grunge arrow
Black Sound Wave
grunge arrow

Acoustic Input

Microphone with Auto Gain Control

Conversion of Analog Sound Waves to Digital Frequency Waves

Visual Output

Cuboid Teacher's Mathematics Geometry Teaching Black Materials in Class

3D Printed Casing

Width: 58mm

Length: 80 mm

Square Workflow Chart

Converting Sound to Light

Circuit Building




  • Digital Signal Processing using Fast Fourier Transforms (FFTs)
  • Java, Python and C++ for Arduino
  • Soldering

  • Breadboard engineering
  • Model building

  • 3D printing using AutoCAD
  • Optimizing microphone position for clearest input
  • Altering LED shape for best visual impact
  • Minimizing shape and required battery for maximal portability while ensuring robustness to use in dance or performance settings

MuSyC: Physical Prototype Demo


LED Neopixel Ring


Outlined Square


COLOR determined by PITCH

[analog sound waves converted to digital frequency using FFTs]

Outlined Square


# of LIT LEDs determined by VOLUME

[using amplitude as a proxy, normalized with auto gain control]

Experimental Stimuli Case Study

designing a toy for a developmental psychology experiment investigating how children understand quantifier words like "each", "every" and "all"


  • Must have distinct individualizable elements which cannot be separated
  • Must have the affordance of being able to test each distinct section out
  • Suitable for the manual dexterity of children as young as three years old
  • Does not pose a choking hazard
  • Simple enough that understanding the geometry of the toy is not an additional cognitive challenge for the participants
Anime and Manga Thought Speech Bubble

inspired by chemistry molecular model kits!

Atom Model
Molecule Chemistry Science Model

Excerpt from research paper for this experiment

Wooden toy prototypes created at the Brown Design Workshop

Blank Torn Paper

3D Animation

To adapt to the pandemic, the toy and "blicket" detector were recreated using 3D modeling (Blendr) in order to create an online game where children could still watch the toy rotate and pick their preferred orientation.

How to Save a Kakapo: an animated film short

Made for the joint Brown-RISD course BIOL 0140T: "Communicating Science through Visual Media". Research, script, voicing, animation and editing done by a team of 3 undergraduates and me. I pitched the idea and I was responsible for the research, the bulk of the script, the voicing and contributed 65% of the hand drawn animations to the film. I conducted an interview with a park ranger who is a member of the Kakapo Recovery Team at the New Zealand Department of Conservation in order to serve the science outreach needs of the ecologists and ornithologists.