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Congratulations to the 2020 Image of Research Winners!

2020 Image of Research winners

Congratulations to the 25 Image of Research semi-finalists. Thank you to every graduate student who entered, our panel of judges, and all those who visited the online exhibition. There were 3,828 votes total in the People's Choice competition.

The 2020 Image of Research winners are:


'Survival is the True Magic': Exploring Digital Counterspaces and Resistance Amidst Oppressive Contexts by Danyelle Dawson from Psychology

'Survival is the True Magic': Exploring Digital Counterspaces and Resistance Amidst Oppressive Contexts

This image of myself and another black graduate student seated in a dilapidated classroom and the accompanying message “#SurvivinglsTheTrueMagic” is an ode to both the resiliency of Black girlhood in the face of broken school systems, and to the everyday acts of resistance that Black Americans engage in as means of survival. The message highlights that the #BlackGirlMagic social media movement is not only an intentional centering of strengths, but also an acknowledgment of systems of oppression that require almost magical efforts to overcome. Hashtags juxtaposed against the dilapidated classroom represent the collision of our digital and physical worlds; here, the contrived image of America as “the most advanced nation in the world” is placed in conversation with the dire state of its most marginalized communities. The constant dehumanization of marginalized communities creates conditions in which communities must engage in efforts to reassert and celebrate their humanity. My research explores how these efforts manifest across our physical and digital worlds, and how Black Americans engage in acts of resistance that foster connection, counternarratives, and survival amidst oppressive contexts. As such, this image and my research are inherently tied, and both function as my own means of resistance and survival.


Complicating Matters of Cultural Historical Information Reproduction through Art and Design: A Material/Visual Study on Emigration Data about the Black Loyalists by Courtney Richardson from School of Information Sciences

Complicating Matters of Cultural Historical Information Reproduction through Art and Design: A Material/Visual Study on Emigration Data about the Black Loyalists

This image displays an in-progress state of my visual study: a textile/fabric iteration of a historically based dataset. This 2016 dataset is a simplified and incomplete copy of an 18th-century handwritten manuscript entitled, Book of Negroes. The registry documents the biographical material of 3,000 Black Americans (historically labeled the Black Loyalists) who emigrated from New York (America) to Nova Scotia (Canada) at the end of the American Revolution. This process image is part of a larger study that uses art and design to explore questions on how incomplete historical material can matter in relation to human interaction and experience. 1,000+ names of the Black Loyalists are re-presented as traveling across the fabric. While working closely with these names (optically and tangibly), I noticed how I viewed them as surrogates for the actual migrants who traveled across land and water. This resulted in me working less mechanically and more intuitively, prioritizing name placement based on possible familial connections over that of abstract rules for structure and arrangement. The latest intervention with embroidery retraces my decisions for arrangement. While working, thoughts of repeated joining and disjoining of relationships and mis/re-identification of individuals emerged, complicating perceived experiences of the Black Loyalists.


Asphalt Concrete Brownie with Hot Asphalt Fudge by Punit Singhvi from Civil and Environmental Engineering

Asphalt Concrete Brownie with Hot Asphalt Fudge

Highways to driveways, airports to parking lots, we are all surrounded by asphalt pavements. Ideally, we wish for smooth rides, however, with every year we experience an increase in potholes and cracking in our asphalt roads, right? United States’ roadway infrastructure is aging and has a backlog of $420 billion in repairs of our existing highways. Addressing these challenges and improving pavement conditions economically, motivates me to design and develop asphalt materials that last long. Asphalt concrete is a mixture primarily composed of asphalt binder and crushed aggregates. It also incorporates fibers and other additives to enhance its performance. The design of asphalt concrete is like a recipe, unique for every geographical location, traffic, drainage, and available materials. It requires the right proportion of each of its ingredients (binder, aggregates, modifiers) to ensure the highest performance. The image reflects asphalt concrete brownie topped with asphalt binder, a sprinkle of yellow Sulphur pellets and white Sasobit (modifier), a garnish of polymer fibers on the top and hint of bio-based oil (modifier). The image is an abstract depiction of how asphalt concrete can be made with perfection by choosing the right ingredients, to overcome the poor pavement condition.


Gaining Clarity by Allison Louie from Nutritional Sciences

One of the challenges of looking into how the brain works is--well, quite literally looking into it. The brain is a dense, lipid-rich structure, which can make it difficult to visualize its fine, intricate connections on a large but sensitive scale. To study how environmental factors such as diet and infection might affect myelination processes of the brain, I utilize a tissue-clearing technique called CLARITY (Clear Lipid-exchanged Acrylamide-hybridized Rigid Imaging/Immunostainingcompatible Tissue-hYdrogel), which essentially renders the tissue "see-through" while maintaining an intact protein scaffold. With this, I can measure the attributes of many individual myelinated fibers across relatively large regions of the brain. Here, transposed onto the night sky, is a sagittal section of mouse brain immunostained with anti-proteolipid protein and imaged with a confocal microscope. Exploring the brain and gaining insight into its complexities fuels my research and my desire to continue to seek out the unknown. While new research is constantly pushing the boundaries of what we know about the brain, there is still much to discover. You might even say it’s…the Final Frontier.


Baeotettix lottiae stares out from its resinous tomb by M. Jared Thomas from Integrative Biology

Baeotettix lottiae stares out from its resinous tomb

Specimens in amber can be a valuable source of information for paleontologists who wish to have a clearer picture of the paleobiota and paleoclimate during the time period when the amber was deposited in the ground. Important information about the evolution of the organisms trapped within is locked away inside and awaiting study. Unfortunately, amber can be notoriously difficult to work with, especially when it comes to photography. Without proper preparation, fossil inclusions may go unnoticed. Without adequate conservation, specimens may be irreparably damaged and forever lost to science. My specialty is the preparation and conservation of fossil resins here at the Prairie Research Institute’s Center for Paleontology. I was fortunate enough to be able to photograph Baeotettix lottiae (Orthoptera, Tetrigidae), which is the holotype of the genus and species of this pygmy grasshopper.


Respire by Yung-Tien from Pathobiology


Marek’s disease is a viral epidemic disease that causes billions of dollars in economic loss in the poultry industry. It is caused by Gallid alphaherpesvirus 2 which transforms T lymphocytes into lymphomas. The infection of feather follicular epithelial cells starts the spreading of virus from chicken to chicken by shedding viral particles so when chickens flap their wings, the virus goes into the air and other chickens inhale the virus and become infected. Everything happens naturally and unseen, which is the beauty of microbiology.


The Image of Research is a multidisciplinary competition celebrating the diversity and breadth of graduate student research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Entries were judged for the connection between image, text, and research; originality, and visual impact. View the 25 semi-finalists' online exhibition or see all the entries in IDEALS. See the Image of Research website at for more details. 

The Image of Research is organized by the Scholarly Commons of the University Library and the Graduate College and is supported by a generous gift to the Scholarly Commons from the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics.