Home South pole ice The 2021 winners: Cool Science Image Contest

The 2021 winners: Cool Science Image Contest


Ten images and two videos created by students, faculty, and staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have been named winners of the 2021 Cool Science Image Competition.

A panel of nine experienced artists, scientists and science communicators judged the scientific content and the aesthetic and creative qualities of dozens of images and videos presented as part of the 11th annual competition. The winning works feature animals and plants, the tiny invisible structures that surround us, as well as stars and nebulae millions of kilometers away.

An exhibit featuring the winners is open to the public at the Mandelbaum and Albert Family Vision Gallery at the McPherson Eye Research Institute, on the ninth floor of the Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research, 111 Highland Ave., until December. A reception – open to the public – for contest participants will take place at the gallery on October 7 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

The winning submissions were created using point-and-shoot digital cameras, state-of-the-art microscopes, and variety yard and mountain top telescopes.

Because sometimes nothing can replace the visual.

“A picture can often convey meaning more effectively than words,” says Ahna Skop, longtime competition judge, artist and professor of genetics at UW-Madison and an active advocate for science. “We know, through marketing and education research, that adding an image with words to a slide increases knowledge retention by 65%. The visual communication of science is essential for the transfer of knowledge in the broad sense. “

The story continues after the gallery

A “winter” – one of two staff members who stay during the minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit nights of the coldest Antarctic months – treks under the stars and dawn to the South Pole house in ‘IceCube, a neutrino telescope directed by UW-Madison frozen in a cubic kilometer of ice.

Yuya Makino, scientific assistant, IceCube Neutrino Observatory

digital camera

Cross section of stringy bark

The large holes in this cross section of a stringy desert bark stem, Eucalyptus arenacea, are conduits through plant tissue that help researchers quantify how the plant – native to drylands of Australia – adapts to a new, more humid environment.

Kennah konrad, undergraduate student, Botany;
Duncan smith, graduate student, botany

compound microscope

Mouse heart

Fluorescent antibodies show the extensive nervous system of a mouse heart. By creating maps of the heart nerves with unprecedented precision, researchers can explore how these nerves influence heart function.

Rebecca Salamon, graduate student, Cellular and Regenerative Biology

confocal microscope

Orion nebula

Messier 42, known as the Orion Nebula, is found in the sword of the constellation Orion and is one of the brightest nebulae in the sky. At just 1,400 light years and 24 light years across, it is one of the closest and largest regions of dense gas and dust in which stars form.

Jeffrey E. Shokler, Associate Director, Office of Undergraduate Advising

refracting telescope and CCD camera

Sundew plant

The carnivorous sundew plant clings to insect meals with armfuls of tentacles that it can move to tighten its grip and bog its prey in sticky secretions. The leaves wrap around a meal to aid digestion by enzymes and absorption of nutrients.

Nisha Iyer, postdoctoral fellow, Wisconsin Institute for Discovery

digital camera

Graphene ribbons

Labyrinths of tiny structures less than 15 billionths of a meter in diameter and made up of some of the smallest ribbons of graphene – layers of carbon a single atom thick – ever made represent a significant step towards telecommunications devices at graphene base.

Joel siegel and Marguerite Fortman, graduate students, Physics;Jian Sun, graduate student, Materials Science;Jonathan Dwyer, Former doctoral student, Chemical engineering

Electronique scanning microscope

Dragonflies on the water

A pair of mating dragonflies pauses on the surface of a Minnesota pond. Dragonfly mating begins when the male (with blue markings) grabs the female with forceps at the end of her abdomen. To complete the act, the female will fold her abdomen under her body to meet the male’s abdomen and create a characteristic heart shape.

Shin-Tsz (Lucy) KuoBachelor, Computer Science and Economics student

digital camera

White matter in the brain

White matter, the connective nervous tissue of the brain, was stained according to the predominant orientation of the fibers – red, right-left; green, double-sided; blue, up-down – in different regions of the human brain to reveal pathways crossing the regions. Understanding the organization of white matter can offer insight into normal brain development as well as the study of neurological disorders.

Jose guerrero, postdoctoral fellow, medical physics;André Alexandre, professor, Medical Physics;Pierre Ferrazzanoprofessor, Pediatrics

magnetic resonance imaging scanner

Axons in the brain

The yellow connecting arms, called axons, of diseased human brain cells grow willy-nilly through the boundaries of inhibitory chemicals (the red bands). Healthy axons would follow precisely the dark pathways, giving researchers the opportunity to test the effects of pathogenic mutations on axon growth.

Timothy catlett
graduate student, Cellular and Molecular Biology;Timothy Gomez, professor, Neurosciences

confocal microscope

A silicon wafer

By varying the exact size and shape of these micrometer-wide star-shaped pillars etched into a silicon wafer, researchers can carefully manipulate light passing through a lens to correct for aberrations that would otherwise focus. different wavelengths of light at different points in space.

Gregory Holdman, graduate student, Physics

focused ion beam and scanning electron microscope

Recurrent neural networks are the computational engines behind cutting-edge applications, from self-driving cars to speech recognition like Amazon’s Alexa. The behavior of these networks is difficult to characterize, but it can be visualized for small networks. This video shows the behavior of a network with only three neurons, showing the evolution of their output by mapping their values ​​in blue. The result, a fractal structure called a “strange attractor,” could help researchers better understand the behavior and characteristics of these types of networks.

David J. Nowak, alumnus and audit student; Robert D. Nowak, professor, electrical and computer engineering

Captured at 20,000 frames per second, this video shows the shock wave induced mixing of two gases – raw imagery to the left; adjusted to better reflect the concentration of the lighter gas on the right. Experiments like this are conducted in the 30-foot-tall Wisconsin Shock Tube, shown at left, to simulate and explore the interface mixing of materials under extreme conditions such as nuclear fusion, supernovae, and hypersonic propulsion. .

Josh herzog, postdoctoral fellow and professor David rothamer, both in mechanical engineering; Riccardo bonazza, professor, Engineering Physics

Continuation of the gallery above

There may be some sort of ineffable something that makes a science image particularly effective – that’s the “Cool” in Cool Science Image Contest – but the good ones have a lot in common.

“You’ll know when you see it.” It’s like seeing “Starry Night” or “Mona Lisa” for the first time, in person. They hit you deep and quickly, ”Skop explains. “They are beautiful to look at, simple and convey meaning. Some images take your breath away. Looking deeper, they beautifully communicate the secrets of science.

The Cool Science Image Contest recognizes the technical and creative skills required to capture images or videos that effectively reveal something about science or nature while leaving an impression with their beauty or ability to elicit wonder. The contest is sponsored by Promega Corp. by Madison, with additional support from the UW-Madison Division of the Arts.

Winning entries are widely shared on UW-Madison’s websites, and all entries are presented at science outreach events on campus and at campus academic and laboratory facilities throughout the year. . Because there was no ability to show the 2020 contest winners in person, this year’s exhibit is dual functionality for the 2020 and 2021 contests. View last year’s winners.

The judges of the competition were:

Steve Ackerman, Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and Vice-Chancellor for Research and Higher Education

Terry Devitt, Director Emeritus of Research Communications, University Communications

Kevin Eliceiri, Director, Optical and Computer Instrumentation Laboratory

Michael King, Visual Communication Specialist, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Steve Paddock, Former Scientist, Molecular Biology

Kara Rogers, Science Writer and Editor, Encyclopedia Britannica

Ahna Skop, professor of genetics

Kelly Tyrrell, Director of Research Communications, University Communications

Craig Wild, Videographer, University Communications

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