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Research Image Winners


Alexander Hackmann

1st Prize - Alexander Hackman

Scanning Electron Microscope image of a polystyrene particle adhering to a single cleaning hair of an ant

In the course of evolution insects have developed a variety of strategies to reduce surface contamination, which can inhibit physiological functions. For example, many insects regularly clean their antennae with a specialized cleaning device on their front legs. My PhD project focuses on understanding the underlying biomechanics of these cleaning structures. This colourized Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) Image shows a 10 µm polystyrene particle (five times smaller than the diameter of a human hair) covered with smaller particles, which is attached to a cleaning hair after its removal from a Camponotus rufifemur ant's antenna. So far nothing is known about the forces acting between the cleaning hairs and the particles to be cleaned. This is the first time that a SEM image shows adhesion between a single cleaning hair and a contaminant.


Mahalia Page

2nd Prize - Mahalia Page

Hair Follicles Help Healing

In healthy skin, the hair follicles are self-contained units. However, as soon as the skin is wounded, stem cells in the hair follicle are called upon to produce a supply of new cells to help close the wound. These new cells (in green) travel towards the centre of the wounded area (middle of image) producing a star-like pattern. New imaging techniques allow us for the first time to see the extent to which hair follicles can help wound healing. This phenomenon helps us understand why wounds heal more quickly on areas of hairy skin.



Gerit Linneweber

3rd Prize - Gerit Linneweber

Insect spiracles - the fly larynx and trachea

The image shows a larval insect posterior spiracle pair. Similar to the human larynx and trachea this is the main entry point for air into the animal. As such it requires similar to the human system several specialisations to prevent anything other than air from entering the breathing apparatus. Rapid closing of the spiracles is done by a strong muscular layer shown in dark blue. The water repellent membranes in the centre are shown in magenta. This complex system is maintained by several different cell types in various sizes (light blue) showing specific and differential gene expression (red). The images was stained with immunohistochemistry and acquired with a Leica SP5 confocal microscope.



Other Entries

Abbe CrawfordAbbe Crawford

Stemcells of the central nervous system

A population of cells were isolated from the adult central nervous system (CNS) of the mouse and grown in culture conditions for 5 days.  Following fluorescent staining for different cellular markers the cells were examined using a confocal microscope.  In this image the differentiation potential of this cell population can be seen; a single cell type is able to generate a diverse range of mature cell types, suggesting marked plasticity of these cells.  Such plasticity in the adult CNS offers possibilities for therapeutic manipulation.  These cells could be used to generate new strategies for the management of chronic neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis.


Ameera PatelAmmera Patel

Fractal properties in brain imaging signals

Fractals are self-similar objects or quantities that look the same from near and afar. Many examples of objects with fractal properties can be found in the natural world, such as crystals, snowflakes, and seashells. Signals from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a method for measuring the activity of neurons through changes in brain blood flow, also possess these properties. As shown in the image, similar patterns are present at different scales moving from a zoomed out view of the signal (top of the picture, low frequency) to a zoomed in view (bottom of the picture, high frequency), suggesting that certain components of these signals are conserved at multiple scales.


Chin Hua YapChin Hua Yap

Brain stem cells captured in cell division

The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster begins life as an embryo before hatching into a larva. The larva develops into a pupa and after a dramatic metamorphosis the adult fruit fly emerges. Throughout the development, the Central Nervous System (CNS), which is equivalent to our brain and spinal cord, changes drastically. In order to increase the size and complexity of the Central Nervous System, the brain stem cells (neuroblasts) within the Central Nervous System must divide actively and without mistakes. To study the division of cells, we have stained the DNA within the Central Nervous System with a blue dye. The green, red and thread-like white signals identify Vihar, Asterless and Alpha-Tubulin respectively; these are cellular components important for cell division. Interestingly, there are two neuroblasts captured clearly in active cell division in this image, can you find them? Clue: look for red dots with white threads emanating from them.


Emily BailesEmily Bailes

The Beans & The Bees

My research aims to improve the pollination of the broad bean (Vicia faba) by finding flower characters that are attractive to bumblebees. It is hoped that by increasing the number of bees that visit this crop, its yield can be improved. This image was taken in July 2013 during a field study that confirmed the main pollinating species of the broad bean as the garden bumblebee (Bombus hortorum) and the common carder bee (B. pascuorum). Both of these species can be seen in this image. On the right, you can just see the common carder bee resting behind a leaf. On the left is the garden bumblebee - I especially like that you can see its proboscis out in anticipation of nectar.


Franziska FischerFranziska Fischer

Toxic Fusarium fungi colonizing maize

The fungi Fusarium graminearum and Fusarium culmorum infect wheat, barley and many other crops, where they diminish harvests and produce toxins dangerous to humans and animals. This makes them a major threat to crop production worldwide. The image shows, for the first time, both F. graminearum (visible in red) and F. culmorum (visible in green) colonizing side-by-side the same maize leaf (visible in blue). The fungi were genetically modified to produce fluorescent proteins (by INRA in Bordeaux, France), which can be imaged under a fluorescence microscope. This allows us to see the infection process and a possible interaction between the two species of fungi. The imaging of the leaf uses natural fluorescence under UV light. The three photographs for the overlay were captured with a Leica DM2500 fluorescence microscope at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge.


Hayley BennettHayley Bennett

Whipworm eggs

These little rugby balls have surprising contents. Each contains a whipworm packed up tightly, ready to break free from a small hatch at the tip of the egg. Hatching begins when the egg reaches the intestine of a host and reacts with gut bacteria. The worm is released and em

beds itself into the gut wall. At the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute we are exploring which genes are turned on during this process, and how the worm prepares for life inside the host. Worm infections are a common problem across the developing world; understanding how worms infect people will help us find the best way to combat them.


Ilya BurkovIlya Burkov

Seeing is understanding

This image was made from a CT scan of a patient who had been hit by a moving vehicle in a roadside accident, their entire body was scanned and using OsiriX software a 3D volume was built-up from the original 2D scanned sections.

This technique not only has the potential to visualise any broken bones in 3D but can, with the help of computational software (such as the Cambridge based Stradwin software package) be applied to Arthritis research (1:5 of the adult population has arthritis). Stradwin has already been used to map bones and accurately measure their thicknesses.


Iwona DriskellIwona Driskell

Stem Cells Heal

Wound repair or healing is a critical for maintenance of skin homeostasis post injury.   After the skin is injured, the wound must be covered as rapidly as possible in order to prevent any infection through the process of wound re-epithelialization. Re-epithelialization involves a complex series of interactions between the skin cells (epidermal cells) in the top layer, cells from the skin lower layer of skin (dermal cells), and immune cells which are part of our body’s defense system.  The epidermal cells from the sides of the wound start migrating into the wound site. Integrins are cell surface proteins that facilitate the migration of epidermal cells into the wound. Image of a section of a mouse back skin taken through the healing wound, after 5mm skin biopsy was taken.  Image shows contribution of hair follicle bulge stem cells labelled in green to the wound healing process.  Green colour is representing expression of green fluorescent protein in the hair stem cell compartment, showing their migration and contribution to wound healing.  Blue marks DNA stored in cell nucleus stained by DAPI stain (4',6-diamidino-2-phenylindole).  Red stains for integrin (alpha 6). Image was taken with Leica confocal microscope using tile scan option at 10x magnification.


Jose Maria UrbanoJose Maria Urbano

Gaudi Cells

Life is full of decisions. Maybe one of the most important one you took was so early that you weren't even aware of. You were just several cells but you already chose which cells will eventually form quite diverse body structures such as lungs, skin or muscles. Understanding how we take those decisions could help us to design new strategies to beat different diseases such as cancer. I use the fruit fly on my research because similar decisions are also taken place during its development. The image shows how the green cells chose to be muscles rather than skin cells, in magenta.


Jun LiuJun Liu

A rainbow "Milky Way" at the brain surface

While many of us are fascinated by mysteries inside the brain, we tend to forget that the brain surface is also an intricate and beautiful place. The fruit fly blood brain barrier is composed of thin layers of cells (called glial cells) and is coated with a variety of interweaving extracellular matrix proteins. The blood brain barrier guards the brain cells from external insults but it allows useful substances (e.g. Oxygen and nutrient) to pass through. This image was taken using DeltaVision OMX system, and it is the first time when the fruit fly blood brain barrier is visualized at super resolution. It shows the dynamic deposition of two ECM proteins, Collagen IV (in green), and Perlecan (in blue), on a layer of integrin receptors located on the surface glial cells (in red).


Kim HoenderdosKim Hoenderdos

Neutrophil mediated damage to lung epithelial cells

This photograph, taken with a confocal microscope, shows human epithelial cells, which are cells that line the lungs. These cells were stained with fluorescent antibodies to identify cell damage. The light blue ovals are the nuclei and the cell skeleton is stained green. These lung cells have been exposed to enzymes released from white blood cells. In normal situations these cells and the proteins they release would help fight infection and kill bacteria, but with diseases such as COPD, these enzymes are released in large amounts which makes them capable of causing substantial damage, as illustrated by the holes in the cell layer.


Konrad WagstylKonrad Wagstyl

The Jigsaw Brain

The location of functional regions in the cortex of the human brain is variable. In order to account for this variability between subjects, the surface of this structural MRI scan was randomly divided into hundreds of small regions. These regions were then used to investigate the structure of the cortex.


Matteo DonegaMatteo Donega


The image represents a so called Neurosphere. Adult neural stem/progenitor cells (NPCs) can be isolated from the brain and cultured in vitro almost indefinitely. While growing NPCs form aggregates, known as neurospheres, which express typical neural markers, such as Nestin (stained in red) and markers of proliferation, such as the phosphorylated form of histone H3 (stained in green). The blue (DAPI) represents cell nuclei. When needed, neurospheres can be disaggregated to obtain single cells that can be transplanted into the damaged nervous system to promote nerve regeneration. Neural stem cells represent, in fact, the best candidate for stem cell therapies to treat neurodegenerative diseases, like Multiple Sclerosis and Spinal Cord Injury. This image was taken using a Confocal Leica Laser Scanning Microscope (CLSC) DMI4000B at the John van Geest Centre for Brain Repair.

Minerva SinghMinerva Singh

Asia's Disappearing Tropical Forests

This image was clicked by me in the tropical forests (located within a highly protected area) is north west Cambodia. Cambodia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world and indeed there is evidence of tree felling within protected landscapes as well. This image was clicked in one such protected logged forest of Cambodia using an ordinary Sony digital camera. This image seeks to illustrate the impact of forest loss on canopy structure of the forest. As can be seen in image, there are significant gaps in the forest canopy and the forest canopy is "broken" as opposed to being contiguous. Many of these gaps have been caused by tree felling. Further, the remainder trees are thin and not exceptionally tall. These are mostly successional trees which emerge post deforestation, especially when large ecologically vital trees have been felled. Such occurrences are detrimental for regional carbon stocks and biodiversity. My research aims to use high resolution aerial imagery and laser technology for quantifying canopy cover loss/tree loss at a landscape scale and examine the impact of this on carbon stocks and forest structure. It is expected my research will develop tools/methodologies to remotely detect deforestation and aid forest conservation activities in poor tropical countries like Cambodia. To the best of my knowledge, this is one of the first photos of displaying the impact of tree felling on forest canopy emerging from the logged forests of Cambodia.


Mubeen GoolamMubeen Goolam

A Mouse Blastocyst  

This series of photographs demonstrate the three cell lineages that are present in a mouse embryo when it is about to implant into the uterus. At this stage the embryo is called a blastocyst and is made up of three different, spatially segregated, cell types shown here in red, green, and yellow. The yellow and red cells are supporting tissues and go on to form the placenta and yolk sac respectively. The green cells at the very centre of the blastocyst will go on to form the actual mouse.

Sarah LukeSarah Luke

A fallen giant: the last forest remnant in a sea of oil palm

This picture was taken in an oil palm plantation in the state of Sabah, in Malaysian Borneo. A mighty Belian ‘iron-wood’ trunk, with a few planks taken, is all that is left of a forest that once stood before the area was cleared to grow palms to produce oil for foods, cosmetics and biofuels. Malaysia is a leading producer of palm oil and the industry has provided a hugely valuable boost to the economy and many jobs. However, vast areas of forest have been lost, posing major threats to biodiversity. Although this is not a unique image, it is unusual to see such a large trunk left abandoned in a plantation, and this offers a particularly poignant reminder of the forest that has been lost.  In my PhD I study the impacts of forest clearance and oil palm plantations on stream ecosystems and possible strategies for conservation.

Tobias WauerTobias Wauer

The Molecular Structure of Parkin

Parkinson’s disease is an incurable neurodegenerative disease, which originates from an imbalance of proteins in human cells. Proteins consist of a distinct sequence of amino acids and mutations in the amino acid sequence of the protein Parkin have been shown to cause Parkinson’s disease. The molecular structure of Parkin was recently determined at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology by X-ray crystallography, a process requiring the production of protein crystals that diffract an intense X-ray beam. From the resulting diffraction pattern it was possible to calculate the structure of Parkin, which is shown here in a representation created with the program PyMOL. A cartoon-like chain traces the amino acids of Parkin and domains are coloured individually. Amino acid mutations found in Parkinson’s disease patients are highlighted in red and can now be mechanistically explained by the structure.


Wendy GuWendy Gu

Motoring on

Humans and animals, alike, move through their environments. Nerve cells, namely motor neurons, control locomotive behaviours such as walking or crawling by sending information to its muscle targets. The motor neurons of an unborn mouse embryo were labelled with a fluorescent red dye and the image was captured using Optical Projection Tomography (OPT), a relatively novel technology that allows scientists to capture 3-dimensional pictures of animal specimens. In this side view, motor neurons travel long distances from the spinal cord to its target muscles in the arms, ribcage, and legs of the mouse. Through our research, we hope to provide therapeutics for movement disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease).


Zhenyu HeZhenyu He

Valentine gift from AFM    

This image was taken when I used the technique called Atomic Force Microscopy to analysed the structure arrangement of the hERG 1a/1b protein. hERG1a/1b is an ion channel in the heart which functions in the electrical activities in the beating. The software used for analysis is Nanoscope 5.31r1. Actually, the picture showed that one herg1a/1b protein (the 'heart') bound  with one antibody ( the 'stick'). The heart shape was quite rare in the analysis and appeared only once in my analysis. Coincidently, that date was 14th of Feb so I felt quite lucky and considered it as the gift and love from Science.