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Congratulations to the 2023 Image of Research Winners!

A collage of the winners of the 2023 Graduate Image of Research Competition

Thank you to every graduate student who entered, the semifinalists, and our panel of judges, as well to visitors of both the online gallery and the on-site exhibit in the Main Library. Thank you as well to those who voted in the People's Choice competition. 

The 2023 Image of Research winners are:


In the Fold by Elizabeth Bello from Entomology

In the Fold

While this image might evoke thoughts of freshly washed laundry or folded sheets, it depicts two incredible features that many insects possess. The first is their ability to fold or unfold their wings from incredibly compact configurations. The second is the presence of nanoscale texturing that creates superhydrophobic and self-cleaning surfaces, a focal point of the Alleyne Bioinspiration Col-LAB-orative (ABC Lab). This image, captured through scanning electron microscopy (SEM), reveals what the wing membrane of a cicada (Neotibicen pruinosus) looks like prior to having fully functioning adult wings. Cicadas are hemimetabolous, meaning they have no pupal stage and will go through several “upsizing” nymphal transitions before becoming an adult. Their immature life stages take place underground and consequently, we know very little of their subterranean lifestyle. Although they have no use for flight underground, their wings will begin to develop inside tiny little buds, almost like envelopes, along the lateral sides of their body. The wings of cicadas are covered with nanopillars, barely visible in this image, that help them to maintain dry and clean wings. This image was captured during an exploratory SEM session to determine if the nanopillars are present on the wing during development.


Untitled, 2023 by Joseph Obanubi from Art + Design

Untitled, 2023

My current research is focused on the tangible manifestation of time, identity and culture into a multi-dimensional whole. It explores what overlays these interactive relationships, interrogating the boundaries of our perceived space and time and evoking conversations about the influence of social and technological cycles on identity and history. The body of work explores a seamless multimedia conversation where time becomes a familiar stranger, both constant and liminal throughout the cycles of evolution. The theories and ideas examined are built into a makeshift palimpsest from a foundation of used negative films holding inverted memories and experiences of strangers from unknown places in non-contextualized times. These memorabilia obtained over several years after their abandonment have been aggregated with digital collages which carry excerpts from the Orikis, a Yoruba oratory tradition that poetically exalts individual subjects. The ongoing execution is an aggregation and close juxtaposition of self-identity alongside a relic of collective identity. The context of the print’s styles, digital technology, contemporary and obsolete materials used to manifest “untitled” communicate shifts in time and space, and capture a conflicting harmony in each element’s production. How does one navigate collective history? Can identity be reclaimed and who and what has authorship?


I Dare You to Stand on this Rock-made Jenga! by Han Wang from Civil and Environmental Engineering

I Dare You to Stand on this Rock-made Jenga!

Do you dare to stand on this tall pile of rocks which seems to even fall apart by itself? A little twist here to make this “Rock-made Jenga” support a 150 lbs. person is simply by sliding thin layers of perforated plastic, which in the civil engineering world, we call  “geogrid.” Our research helps to design a more stable crushed rock layer (in civil engineering world, again, we call it aggregate base course layers) in our highways, airport runways and railroad tracks with geogrids. Does it sound easy so far? Just by sliding in the geogrids, will we have more resilient, stable and longer-lasting pavement structure? Not really… A lot has to be done to find the right geogrid to match the rocks the project is using and to quantify the effect of geogrid for design purpose. In order to do this, we are using state-of-the-art Bender Element Technology developed in house, at the University of Illinois, to characterize the movement of crushed rocks with and without adding geogrid under dynamic loading. This helps us optimize our infrastructure and ultimately design better transportation systems to serve communities.


Western Corn Rootworm Aggregation Behavior on Pumpkin Flowers by Yony T. Callohuari Quispe from Crop Sciences

 Western Corn Rootworm Aggregation Behavior on Pumpkin Flowers

Western corn rootworm (WCR), the “billion-dollar bug,” got its name due to the costs related to its damage and control, which have been estimated at more than one billion dollars for corn farmers. In recent years, the level of WCR infestation has been greatly reduced due to the widespread use of Bt corn. Although these varieties have been successful in controlling WCR, cases of resistance have already been reported in certain areas. For many decades, WCR proved being able to develop resistance to different control measures, including the use of insecticides and cultural measures such as crop rotation. Therefore, research on this key maize pest must continue. In order to conduct research, it is necessary to have fields with a high level of infestation which will allow us to find statistically significant differences. In our research, we tested different crops, called “trap crops” that can attract the attention of adult WCR and direct them to lay their eggs in those fields. Those intentionally infested areas will thus be suitable for conducting field investigations on WCR. One of the proposed trap crops was pumpkin, whose flowers are highly attractive for WCR adults as we can see in the picture.



The Snow-capped Mountains at Nanoscale! by Mitisha Surana from Materials Science and Engineering

The Snow-capped Mountains at Nanoscale!

Graphene, the “magic” two-dimensional material, is grown commercially using a process called chemical vapor deposition. During this process, this atomically thin material causes the underlying catalyst surface to form enormous mountainous structures, about 300 times larger than an atom in some cases, in short spans of time. The self-arrangement of atoms to form large facets is very fascinating, and fundamental to understanding the interaction between 2D-3D heterostructures. The image shows a 3D rendition of pyramids observed under graphene on copper, studied using atomic force microscopy, imagined artistically as snow-capped mountains!



A Corn Plant's Perspective by Darby Danzl from Crop Sciences

A Corn Plant's Perspective

Harvest season is the time of year that field research on corn and soybean comes to an end. Our specialized two-row combine allows us to harvest the yield rows of our plots for data collection. This data is then used to evaluate the effectiveness of our treatment applications and allows us to generate suggestions on how to improve the use and efficiency of inputs and management practices. Improving the agricultural productivity of corn and soybean crop production is vital for sustaining current and future human populations, and equipment such as this combine helps us conduct the research required for further advancement.

Image of Research is an annual multidisciplinary competition celebrating the diversity and breadth of graduate student research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It is organized by the Scholarly Commons of the University Library and the Graduate College

The semi-finalists were chosen by an interdisciplinary panel who judged entries on 1) connection between image, text, and research, 2) originality, and 3) visual impact. 

For more details about the competition, see the Image of Research website.