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Congratulations to the Winners of the Image of Research Competition

The winners are:


Josh Smith from Nutritional Sciences for “The Creation of Adam In Situ”

Michelangelo's 'The Creation of Adam' famously depicts the Genesis creation story - God, grandly buoyed by a host of cherubim, reaching across an empty expanse, is about to impart the spark of life to the listless finger of Adam. Perhaps the most iconic (and brilliant) detail of the work is the hands, capturing the moment immediately before contact - the power of the creator, the fatigue of Adam, and the smallest of gaps between them. As a biologist, my own research attempts to capture critical details of life - from the impact of diet on the physiology of a whole organism, to the effects of individual genes on a few cells in an organ. My dissertation has focused on the function of a single gene, Bco1, and how it impacts androgen receptor signaling in the prostate. Late one night at the confocal fluorescence microscope, I found this and immediately thought of The Creation of Adam. From the glandular epithelia, fingerlike, extending across the empty expanse, to the smallest of gaps between them, I couldn’t help but think that life, depicted grandly on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or nestled in the middle of a mouse’s prostate, was completely amazing.


Jessie Young from Dance for “Descend Sky”


I explore autobiography and dance, the place where embodied practice jibes with personal archive, unfolding selfhood. With the cinematic concepts of Gilles Deleuze (difference, reflection/refraction and the crystal-image) my research deconstructs and recollects memory and experience. I look for simultaneity of stillness and movement, and for the moment in between. I ask: what duration is about to happen? This photograph references memories and perceptions of my Pacific Northwest childhood, at once poising actual (perceived) and virtual (remembered) images. Here self-portraiture of reflection converges what is behind and what is ahead. 


Mohamed Elhebeary, Mechanical Science and Engineering for “Take a Closer Look!”


At very small length-scales, we often see surprising scaling effects. Ants can carry hundreds of times their weight! Can you imagine a third grader carrying a car? In order to build micromachines that can exhibit similar behavior, we need to understand how materials behave at these small scales. Mechanical testing of nanoscale materials, such as those used in microelectronics, is almost impossible using conventional testing machines. Therefore, we need to build our own MEMS platforms for testing. The device shown here is deceptively simple. It can mechanically test tiny samples, with thickness as small as 1/500 of the diameter of a human hair, under bending. Building these machines is very challenging, both in design and fabrication. Sophisticated designs are needed that are often manufactured from one block of material and require no assembly. Microfabrication involves several steps of addition and removal of material and is often performed in a cleanroom environment, free from dust and other contaminants. The more we understand the materials behavior the closer we get to manufacturing advanced systems such as tiny biological robots that can swim through your bloodstream detecting and fighting diseases.


Tyler Earnest from Physics for “Building Ribosomes from Computational LEGO”


Ribosomes, the molecular machines responsible for assembling protein from amino acids, are among the most fundamental structures in biology and are found across all domains of life. These machines are assembled hierarchically by the association of 54 proteins to three strands of RNA (in bacteria) in a highly coordinated sequence. My research involves the construction of a lattice based, computational model of Escherichia coli to study the in vivo assembly of the ribosomal small subunit. Explicit in this model is the transcription and translation of the ribosomal components. The central cell in this figure is a visualization of a single time point in the simulation. The cubes show how the simulation domain is discretized onto a lattice. The spheres represent the ribosomal protein (gray), small (yellow) and large (brown) subunits, completed ribosomes (white), and assembling ribosomes (orange). Inside the cell is a representation of the bacterial chromosome from which the ribosomal constituents are transcribed. This structure is from a separate project of mine which aims to provide accurate gene positioning for my whole cell simulations. These projects lay the groundwork for more complete models of living cells.


Lauren Hansen from Germanic Languages and Literatures “Bridges or Borders?: The Foggy Struggle for Human Rights and National Sovereignty in the European Union”

This picture was taken from the German side of the German-Polish border at Europe University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder) and represents themes both historical and current. My dissertation explores contemporary German literature's rendering of family memory as transnational and transcultural, particularly in remembrance of forced displacement of peoples in the midst and aftermath of WWII. For example, Germans fled land once claimed by Nazi Germany but that had been returned to Poland after WWII. In the photograph, the bridge between Germany and Poland symbolizes the relatively good relations established in the last decades. The bridge enables mobility and exchange of people, money, goods, and ideas. However, the questions of whether and how to help the millions of refugees fleeing the Middle East today render Polish-German relations, the borders of EU countries, and their respective national and cultural identities "foggier" than ever before. In the polarizing debate refugee debate, foggy areas become apparent as Germans recall their own refugee crisis following WWII. Today's challenges in Europe reinvoke Germany's and Germans' national and personal memories, respectively. The many and varied responses to the refugee crisis speak to the significance of national and personal remembrance and forgetting when facing contemporary crises.


Jamila Hedhli from Bioengineering for “Tom-and-Diabetic-Jerry”

Most researchers have probably felt like they are engaged in a bit of a cat-and-mouse game the closer we get to a discovery, the further we invariably find we have to run. This is especially true in the wee hours of the morning when the day's data is analyzed to see if qualitative findings can translate into statistically-significant results. I am not a photographer, but I snapped this picture during just such an after-hours data-analysis session at home. It makes me smile; it is the metaphorical chase rendered literal. My pet cat, Simba, came to have a look at my research on PET imaging of mice. I study the use of stem-cells for treating damaged blood vessels in diabetic animals (poor blood vessel regeneration is a serious complication of diabetes). You can actually see the effect on the computer screenthe left-most image shows active blood vessel formation (light blue) in the leg of a healthy mouse while the middle image (diabetic) shows almost no new blood vessel growth. Treatment with stem-cells clearly increases the diabetic animal's ability to reform blood vessels. We hope one day to translate these findings to actual human patients, but for now, the chase continues!

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 by a multidisciplinary panel for connection between image, text, and research; originality, and visual impact.

The winners were announced at a reception on Wednesday, April 6, where the entries of twenty-five semi-finalists were on display. Attendees voted for the People’s Choice Award. All of the 2016-2017 submissions will soon be on display in IDEALS. See The Image of Research website for more details at You can view a full gallery of the semi-finalists on Instagram.

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.