A magnified image of a fruit fly’s eye took first place in the third annual Wesleyan Scientific Imaging Contest in August.
The Wesleyan Scientific Imaging Contest recognizes student-submitted images—from experiments or simulations done with a Wesleyan faculty member—that are scientifically intriguing, as well as aesthetically pleasing. This year, 21 images were submitted from eight departments. The contest is organized by the College of Integrative Sciences as part of the summer research program.
The entries were judged based on the quality of the image and the explanation of the underlying science. The judges, a panel of four faculty members, were Brian Northrop, associate professor of chemistry; Ann Burke, professor of biology; Seth Redfield, associate professor of astronomy; and Renee Sher, assistant professor of physics.
The first-place winner received a $200 prize, the second-place winner received $100, and the two third-place winners received $50 each. Prizes were funded by the Office of Academic Affairs.
The winning images are shown below, along with scientific descriptions written by the students.
Emily McGhie ’20 took first prize with an image that depicts a mispatterning phenotype in the Drosophila (fruit fly) pupal eye at 40 hours after pupariation. “Such a phenotype was produced in the eye tissue by utilizing an RNA interference transgene to reduce the expression of hth—a gene that encodes the transcription factor Homothorax. Interommatidial pigment cells are shown in yellow and purple, and primary cells are shown in green and blue. In one image, incorrectly patterned cells are compared to correctly patterned cells: the mispatterned cells are highlighted in yellow and green, while correctly patterned cells are highlighted in purple and blue,” she said.
Tsun Lok Kwan ’21 took second prize with a visualization of a network graph reflecting the relationships between 200 local TV stations and the stories they aired for the evening news. “Each node represents one TV station and the edges represent a story aired on that particular station that shares high verbatim similarity with a story aired on another station. The width of the edge represents the degree of similarity—the wider the edge, the greater the similarity. The color of the edge represents one of eight unobserved topics identified by topic modeling—Trump, healthcare, weather, et cetera. The arcane aesthetics of this visualization suggest that networks in the real world are entangled to the point of approaching a complexity resembling that which we usually see only on an infinitesimal level in the sciences, a reminder that such beauty replicates itself fractal-like throughout our lives,” he said.
Sabrina Koetter ’20 took a tie for third place with this image of Campylodiscus hibernicus, a benthic diatom found in sediment samples from the Paulina Lake at Newberry Crater, Oregon. “Smaller planktonic diatom Stephanodiscus excentricus can be seen as well, attached to the surface of C. hibernicus. This photo was taken with the scanning electron microscope at Wesleyan and the specimen itself is only about 130 um in size. This image displays the complex structure of single-celled organisms such as this diatom, as it is something much too small to be seen with the naked eye yet we can marvel at the intricate details of its design when using the SEM,” she said.
Hunter Vannier ’20 took a tie for third place with his photograph of a fire-scored field in Arizona. “In my research this summer, I examined the effect of wildfire on agave plant growth in the American Southwest, particularly in the Chiricahua National Monument. Settlers have practiced fire suppression since the late 1800s, preventing the natural wildfire from running its course, thus giving us insufficient data on how agave responds to burning. With the population pressure on agave and other mezcal, due to the tequila industry and land development, figuring out how agaves react to wildfire is crucial to their future health. In this picture, one can see the divide between freshly burned land and grassland, agave plants on the far hillside, and the red-colored flame retardant dropped by planes to quell a very recent lightning-induced wildfire. The natural and human factors clash in this photo, a contrast parallel to my research,” he said.