Winners in the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s annual Cool Science Image Contest — including a quilt organized around a mathematical theorem, a painting of tiny swimming plankton out for their daily constitutional and lung X-rays rendered by artificial intelligence as classic works of art — are some of the most diverse representations of science in the contest’s 12-year history.
A panel of eight experienced artists, scientists and science communicators chose nine more images and a video based on the aesthetic, creative and scientific qualities distinguished from scores of entries. The winning entries showcase animal cells, crystalline structure, quantum computing equipment and a sweeping view of our galaxy.
An exhibit featuring the winners is open to the public at the McPherson Eye Research Institute’s Mandelbaum and Albert Family Vision Gallery on the ninth floor of the Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research, 111 Highland Ave., through December. A reception including contest entrants will be held at the gallery Thursday, Sept. 29, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. and is also open to the public.
Winning creators used a wide array of tools, including incredibly sophisticated microscopes and point-and-shoot digital cameras, innovative machine learning computers and a needle and fabric. A common thread runs through the creators’ desire to explore the world around us with more than the mind’s eye.
“The pursuit of science is about more than abstract ideas,” says Kelly Tyrrell, a contest judge, molecular biologist and UW–Madison director of media relations and strategic communications. “Science can allow us to see the unseeable and uncover the unknown. Science images, videos and art can offer a tangible glimpse into and through the universe, and help us to better know ourselves, too.”
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graduate student, Medical Physics;
graduate student, Medical Physics
chest x-rays and PyTorch deep learning framework
research intern, Neuroscience;
graduate student, Physics
graduate student, Cellular & Molecular Pathology and Wisconsin National Primate Research Center;
scientist, Morgridge Institute for Research and Wisconsin National Primate Research Center;
professor, Medical Physics and Wisconsin National Primate Research Center
professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
machine pieced and quilted cotton fabric
Rex Chin-Hao Chen,
graduate student, Biomedical Engineering;
researcher, Biomedical Engineering;
undergraduate student, Mechanical Engineering;
scientist, Biomedical Engineering;
Kip Ludwig, professor,
Polarization Sensitive Optical Coherence Tomography
postdoctoral fellow, Comparative Biosciences
science communications intern, Trout Lake Station
graduate student, Pharmacy;
graduate student, Genetics;
research scientist, Pharmacy;
graduate student, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences
graduate student, Pharmacy
polarized light microscope
visiting researcher, Animal & Dairy Sciences
Even from orbit 22,200 miles above Earth, the GOES-17 satellite captured the shockwave from the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga volcano as it passed through atmospheric water vapor over the Pacific Ocean on Jan. 15, 2022 — eventually circling the planet many times. The images were created from satellite data using software developed at UW–Madison in the 1970s and still in use worldwide.
Timothy J. Schmit, meteorologist, James P. Nelson III, data engineer, and Mathew M. Gunshor, researcher, all of the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies
Digital rendering of satellite data
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The Cool Science Image Contest recognizes the technical and creative skills required to capture and create images, videos and other media that capably reveal something about science or nature while also leaving an impression with their beauty or ability to induce wonder. The contest is sponsored by Madison’s Promega Corp., with additional support from UW–Madison’s office of University Communications.
Winning entries are shared widely on UW–Madison websites, and all entries are showcased at campus science outreach events and in academic and lab facilities around campus throughout the year. See last year’s winners.
The contest judges were:
Steve Ackerman, professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences and vice chancellor for research and graduate education
Kevin Eliceiri, director, Laboratory for Optical and Computational Instrumentation
Michael King, visual communications specialist, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Steve Paddock, former scientist, Molecular Biology
Kara Rogers, science writer and editor, Encyclopedia Britannica
Ahna Skop, professor of genetics
Kelly Tyrrell, director of media relations and strategic communications, University Communications
Craig Wild, videographer, University Communications
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