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JALA & JBS Art of Science Contest Showcases Interesting, Beautiful and Just Plain Cool Scientific Images!

"While great visuals may be more ‘style than substance,' an eye toward elegance can make a difference in how results are interpreted and accepted by the larger community." – Mark Bray, The Broad Institute, 2013 JALA & JBS Art of Science Honorable Mention winner


Yi Zhang and Cyrus Beh, graduate students at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, created the 2013 JALA & JBS Art of Science Grand Prize image when studying the effect of surface roughness on the contact angle in order to achieve better control of droplets on an open-surface droplet platform.

"The energy gradient is created by adjusting the surface roughness of the polydimethylsiloxane substrate through microengineering," Zhang explains. "The droplets, stained with different food dyes to aid visualization, look very neat lining up due to different contact angles. A good picture can more effectively demonstrate a scientific idea."

Zhang and Beh work in the laboratory of Tza-Huei "Jeff" Wang, where they have been working diligently on all-in-one microfluidic diagnostics for sample preparation, target detection and integration. Zhang is research team leader on two projects: droplet microfluidics based lab-on-a-chip system for point-of-care diagnostics and quantum dot based nanoassay for cancer diagnostics. His undergraduate bioengineering degree, with honors, is from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

Zhang is a 2013 Siebel scholar, which recognizes the most talented students at the world's leading graduate schools of business, bioengineering and computer science. According to the Johns Hopkins institute for NanoBioTechnology, "Zhang's work developing micro- and nanoscale molecular techniques to help diagnose cancer and infectious diseases has supported one of the core research goals of the Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence. He is listed as an inventor on four patent applications, one of which has been licensed by a biotechnology company."

Beh obtained his undergraduate degree from the National University of Singapore and also worked as a research assistant at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore before moving to Johns Hopkins.

The graduate students' principal investigator Wang served as a guest editor for the JALA June 2010 special issue, "Transforming Microfluidics into Laboratory Automation," and now serves as a member of the JALA Editorial Board. His special issue highlighted emerging research areas in microfluidics and nanomaterials for driving a new paradigm in laboratory automation applications.

The JALA & JBS Art of Science Contest grand prize winners received The New iPad. Zhang was an honorable mention in the 2012 JALA & JBS Art of Science contest.

And There are More…

SLAS celebrates the 10 creators of the 2013 JALA & JBS Art of Science Contest honorable mention images. Each was awarded a $50 Amazon gift card.

Mark Bray of the Broad Institute, Cambridge MA, is a big believer in image use for productive science.

"A regrettably under-recognized part of science is effective communication," Bray says. "If scientific results cannot be conveyed in a meaningful way, the impact may be lost. While great visuals may be more ‘style than substance,' an eye toward elegance can make a difference in how results are interpreted and accepted by the larger community. Another related aspect is the fact that aesthetically pleasing images can entice younger students to explore science as a career. I often show a variety of fluorescence images in talks to high schoolers for this very purpose."

His 2013 JALA & JBS Art of Science Contest image shows how a cardiac myocyte is plated onto an extracellular matrix island, which restricts its growth to the shape of the island.

"How the cells organize their internal structure is difficult to study in vivo, so scientists have turned to micropatterning in order to impose the desired geometry on the cell and examine how the cell responds in kind," Bray offers. "Using these soft-lithographic approaches make it possible for an imaginative researcher to construct a variety of shapes for the cell to grow upon, ranging from the physiological to the fanciful."

You can learn more about Bray's work in a Broad Institute video and access his February 2012 JBS article, "Workflow and Metrics for Image Quality Control in Large-Scale High-Content Screens."

Xianting Ding of the University of California, Los Angeles was studying the self-assembling phenomenon of some artificial small molecules. One of those molecules, SP600125, is known to dissolve poorly in water. Adding a dimethyl sulfoxide droplet containing highly concentrated SP600125 into deionized water resulted in this honorable mention image.

"The complex structure was completely self-assembled in less than 10 seconds," Ding explains. "The mechanism is not clear at all and is currently under investigation. The overall structure appears to be uniform, but the arrangement of the nanofibers is highly disordered. The beauty of the picture was totally unexpected. Beautiful and meaningful pictures themselves are strong enough to convey the ideas the authors plan to tell."

Ding indicates that this image illustrating the mechanism of self-assembled structures has resulted in increased attention to their research. Read more about Ding, who has served SLAS as a JALA manuscript reviewer and also was an honorable mention in the 2012 JALA & JBS Art of Science contest.

When her image was created, Carolina Haass-Koffler of the University of California, San Francisco Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center, was studying the mechanism of cross-talking between G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). She was performing an immunohistochemical staining of human cells transfected with HA-tagged GPCR probed using anti-HA visualized using AlexaFluor-594 conjugated anti-mouse (IgG1) and with DAPI to visualize the nuclei. Looking for phenotypic changes in cell morphology in the presence of different proteins, she noticed two very isolated cells were extending their cell membranes toward one another.

"On the silent, black background, the fluorescent GPCR extensions appeared to have their own sublime conversation," Haass-Koffler says in awe. "The connection between the ‘reach of two cells' and the ‘near-touching hands' in the Creation of Adam by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel was pretty much immediate. I was seven years old when I saw the fresco by Michelangelo for the first time, and I perceived that image again, decades later, in the microscopy room."

Haass-Koffler is a neuroscientist studying the effect of stress in neuronal plasticity and says that art has always been part of her approach to understanding science.

"Some images remain molded in our brain forever," she explains. "My approach in science is very visual. When I need to make connections between scientific concepts, I always recall figures in published manuscripts or textbooks. A beautiful figure helps address and recall information."

George Hanson of Life Technologies, Eugene, OR, was generating applications data on a new benchtop imaging device he helped design and build, the FLoid Cell Imaging Station, when this JALA & JBS Art of Science Contest honorable mention image was created.

"I love the vibrant green color with the natural fluorescence and intricacy of Spirogyra algae in this image," says Hanson. "In our increasingly mobile world of devices with screens, images are more prevalent than ever before. The challenge now is to stand out from the crowd and be noticed."

Science art can be powerful off the screen as well. Hanson created a two by three foot version of this image and the canvas hangs in the Life Technologies lobby.

Learn more about FLoid developers Hanson and Mike O'Grady and view more images created using FLoid. Hanson's most recent JBS article is "Cell-Based Potassium Ion Channel Screening Using the FluxOR™ Assay," April 2010, volume 15, number 4, pages 441-446.

The 2013 JALA & JBS Art of Science Contest honorable mention image by Lorena Kallal of GlaxoSmithKline, Collegeville, PA, is a landscape created as a composite, combining parts from different immunofluorescent cellular images. The image includes staining of nuclei – blue dots in water and other cytoplasmic components of cells shown in green.

"The old adage says it, pictures really do tell a thousand words," she notes. "And new eyes on a picture can generate questions you never even thought of asking."

Kallal is a published JBS author. Her most recent work, "The Development of a High-Content Screening Binding Assay for the Smoothened Receptor," is in August 2012, volume 17 number 7, on pages 900-911.

Anand Krishnan is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. His work involves the identification of therapeutic targets that facilitate peripheral nerve regeneration. He says one of the in vitro models for this kind of study is to perform primary culture of dorsal root ganglia neurons and then assess the outgrowth of neurite processes that sprout from each neuronal cell body. The cell body and the processes can be visualized by staining them with neurofilament antibody.

"This image was generated from such an in vitro experiment and the neurite processes and corresponding branches could be clearly visualized in this figure," Krishnan explains. ?"The total amount of neurite outgrowth from each cell body, maximum length of each neurite and branches associated with each neurite can be quantified using MetaXpress software."

He indicates they use this software to analyze the total neurite outgrowth content between control and treated (different agents specific to proposed targets) cultures.

"An image says it all," he continues. "If you manage to capture an image at the right time with the right precision, you save significant time explaining the fine details of your results."

Jerry Shay of The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas created this honorable mention image titled Human Cell Mitochondria and Cytoskeleton. It is an interphase human cell stained with 4'-6-Diamidino-2-phenylindole for the DNA of the nucleus – red for mitochondria and green for the actin cytoskeleton.

Shay is a JBS published author. "Development of Methods for Quantitative Comparison of Pooled shRNAs by Mass Sequencing" appears in February 2012, volume 17 number 2, on pages 258-265.

Manju Swaroop is with the National Institutes of Health National Center for Advancing Translational Science Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases in Rockville, MD. Her honorable mention neurofilament image illustrates differentiated neurons stained for the neuronal marker – neurofilament in green and nuclei in red.

Another one of her scientific images appears on the cover of the NIH Assay Guidance Manual, an e-book that helps investigators interested in developing assays for the evaluation of collections of molecules to identify probes that modulate the activity of biological targets, pathways and cellular phenotypes and may be candidates for further optimization and investigation in drug discovery and development.

Swaroop also is a JBS published author. "Evaluation of Cholesterol Reduction Activity of Methyl-β-cyclodextrin Using Differentiated Human Neurons and Astrocytes" appears in October 2012, volume 17 number 9, on pages 1243-1251.

Constantinos Zeinalipour-Yazdi of CySilicoTech Research Limited, Nicosia, Cyprus, has always been fascinated by the discovery of the crystallographic structure of DNA by Watson and Crick.

"I read their book about it when I was doing my bachelor's degree in chemistry in Cyprus and had free time to spend in the library," he offers. "This macromolecule contains all the information for a complete living organism and I think this is what kept me interested is this image subconsciously."

He says that his JALA & JBS Art of Science Contest honorable mention image combines the molecule of life, DNA, with the various colors that represent diversity through a Gaudi-like representation.

"I recently visited Barcelona where I had a chance to see the art creations of the famous architect Gaudi," he continues. "Great imagery plays an important role in effective science as many scientific models where first perceived by imagery or better imagination."

Zeinalipour-Yazdi also earned an honorable mention in the 2012 JALA & JBS Art of Science contest.

Li Zhang of The Chinese University of Hong Kong in Shatin loves "that the nanowire aggregation really looks like a bird's nest that we could see in nature!"

He explains that the false-color scanning electron microscope micrograph image shows an aggregation of nickel nanowires with several microparticles around it. The individual nickel nanowires were actuated using rotating magnetic field for the generation of localized microvortex.

"We discovered that mobile microvortex can be used to trap and manipulate microscale objects, such as microparticles or microorganisms, selectively," he says. "Furthermore, the mobile microvortices, with volumes down to femtoliters, provide a noncontact and minimal invasive manipulation environment for cells and other biological samples, which is close to their physiological condition."

The results of this work were published in Nano Letters. "Selective Trapping and Manipulation of Microscale Objects Using Mobile Microvortices" authors are Zhang and Tristan Petit, Kathrin E. Peyer, Bradley E. Kratochvil and Bradley J. Nelson. The work was honored in the 2013 JALA Ten as a significant breakthrough across the intersection of automation, diagnostics, therapeutics, imaging, manufacturing and beyond.

2014 JALA & JBS Art of Science Contest

JALA and JBS look forward receiving entries to the third annual contest. Watch for details regarding the third annual JALA & JBS Art of Science Contest.

March 4, 2013