2022 Contest

Prize winning images from the 2022 Art of Science contest.

2022 Judges’ Award, Faculty/Project Scientist Participant Category

Bacterial Flowers

"Bacterial Flowers" by Lev Tsimring

When two very different strains of bacteria grow together, something miraculous happens

Diverse interactions among species within bacterial colonies lead to intricate spatiotemporal dynamics (ways they move through space and time), which can affect their growth and survival. These images show some of the complex structures that we discovered when we mixed together motile bacteria, Acinetobacter baylyi, and non-motile, Escherichia coli, and allowed them to grow on a soft agar surface for 24 hours or more starting from a little drop in the center of a Petri dish.

Lev Tsimring is a research scientist associated with the BioCircuits Institute at UC San Diego.

Contributor: Liyang Xiong

Related: L. Xiong, Y. Cao, R . Cooper, W.J. Rappel, J. Hasty, L. Tsimring. Flower-like patterns in multi-species bacterial colonies. eLife, 9: 48885 (2020).

2022 Judges’ Award, Postdoctoral Category

Radioactive Lungs

"Radioactive Lungs" by Edward Ashworth

A unique method to track the movement of gas through the body provides insights to detect and treat diseases

This image shows radioactive nitrogen gas being inhaled into the lungs of a rat. Radioactive nitrogen releases atomic particles as it moves through the body, providing a signal that allows us to track where the nitrogen gas is. Here, the signal is strongest in the trachea, then spreads out as the nitrogen fills the lungs before it is taken up by the blood and transported throughout the body. As only the gas is being tracked, no anatomical structures are seen as in traditional medical scans, producing a silhouette of the lungs. Currently we are tracking the movement of nitrogen to better understand injuries during SCUBA diving where pressure changes can cause nitrogen gas to form bubbles in bodily tissues, a condition known as decompression sickness or “the bends.” Ethical animal models are essential to understanding and developing treatments for such illnesses, as well as providing a foundation for future research in humans. All procedures were performed in accordance with protocols approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of the University of California San Diego.

Edward Ashworth is a postdoctoral researcher associated with the Department of Emergency Medicine at UC San Diego.

Contributors: Ryotaro Ogawa and Peter Lindholm

2022 Judges’ Award, Graduate Student Participant Category

Seaweed Kaleidoscopes

"Seaweed Kaleidoscopes" by Adi Khen

Digitally-edited images of seaweed pressings with kaleidoscope effect

Seaweeds can be brown, red or green; calcified, fleshy or in between. Not only are they a main food source to herbivores such as fish, but they can also be used by humans for aquaculture, biofuels, pharmaceuticals and climate mitigation. These kaleidoscope photo edits were made using pressings of common seaweed species found in San Diego, including feather boa kelp (Egregia menziesii), the sea comb (Plocamium pacificum), giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) and chain-bladder kelp (Stephanocystis osmundacea).

Adi Khen is a graduate student associated with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, Smith Lab.

To watch a video of Adi talking about how their seaweed pressings are made, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9AEv8hcIiM

2022 Judges’ Award, Undergraduate Participant Category


"Jellyfish" by Maggie Yu

3D model of jellyfishes of diffusion tensor imaging

There are many ways to evaluate what is going on inside the human brain using methods like diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). However, I didn’t see any DTI implanted in animals, so I created a prototype of jellyfish DTI using three-dimensional design software.

Maggie Yu is an undergraduate student associated with the Departments of Cognitive Science and Visual Arts at UC San Diego.

2022 Open Voting Winner

Energy Worms

"Energy Worms" by Anne Lyons

Watch an energy regulator on mitochondria, cellular powerhouses that go wherever energy is needed

Mitochondria are the part of cells responsible for producing energy using the sugars we get from food and the oxygen we breathe. This energy we have readily available at any point is monitored by a protein called AMPK. If we don't have a lot of energy available, AMPK tells other parts of the cell to focus less on building and more on breaking things down to create more energy. In this image, a fluorescent sensor that can detect when AMPK is "talking" or "quiet" was attached to the mitochondria. With certain lower energy conditions, AMPK talks louder and we see even greater brightness from the sensor in our images. Understanding this conversation AMPK starts is important in studying energy-related diseases like diabetes and cancer.

Anne Lyons is a graduate student associated with the Department of Bioengineering at UC San Diego, Jin Zhang Lab.

Contributors: Danielle Schmitt, Sohum Mehta and Jin Zhang