Congratulations to the Winners of the 2017 Graduate Image of Research Competition!

The winners of this year’s Image of Research Competition were announced at a reception on April 5 where the entries of twenty  semi-finalists were on display. Attendees voted for the People’s Choice Award. All of the entries will soon be on display in IDEALS.

The winners are:

1st Prize ($500 award)

Leanna Barcelona from Library and Information Science for “A Walk Down Memory Lane: Connecting History at the Student Life and Culture Archives”

The Student Life and Culture Archives, a unique facet to our library system at the University of Illinois, documents the life of students across campus to connect students of the past, present, and future through shared histories. Students of the University of Illinois have made, are making, and will continue to make history and the SLC archives is an access point for this history. My research uses this access point to create better understanding of how we are all connected through these shared histories, and how these shared histories shaped today. Specifically, my research looks at the histories of women and diverse communities on campus and their significance today. This image shows how students of the past live inside the Student Life and Culture Archives, their stories connecting Illini throughout time.


2nd Prize ($300 Award)

Chris Seward from Cell and Developmental Biology for “A Clear Mind”

Novel imaging techniques are necessary for examining whole brain protein expression patterns. Animal brains are large, complex structures that are difficult to image comprehensively. Neurons can be several inches long, while only a few nanometers in width and can branch in many directions connecting different regions of the brain. Laser light has trouble penetrating the dense, opaque tissue, which usually means brains can only be imaged in extremely thin slices that fail to image complete cell processes. To solve these problems, we have modified a technique called CLARITY that allows us to make a whole mouse brain completely transparent, while keeping fluorescent labels intact. This process allows us to visualize the connections of an intact brain at extremely high resolution in three dimensions. The goal of our study is to identify the proteins activated after a social stimulus, such as an intruder in an animal’s home. This image shows inhibitory neurons in green and neuron bundles expressing a protein that is triggered by a social experience in red. The blue background stain reveals important brain structures. These images allow us to connect the expression of a gene in one area of the brain, and follow it’s signal to other areas.


3rd Prize ($200 Award)

Elizabeth Weston from Social Work for “Alone No Longer”

As an MSW student, my heart reaches out to those who suffer the effects of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). It has been estimated that around 14.8 million adults living in America are directly affected by this diagnosis. In short, symptoms of MDD include: energy loss, feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, and loneliness, extreme sadness, and fatigue. In a world surrounded by beauty, those suffering from MDD experience life in a different way. The darkness that covers the tiny farm house in this photo represents the individuals who feel the crippling effects of MDD. The beautiful colors that engulf the sky represent the rest of the world and those who might not understand Major Depressive Disorder and its effects of day-to-day life. By collaborating with mental health professionals, organizations,and various media outlets, we can bring light to the overlooked topic of Major Depressive Disorder in order to reduce stigma, provide help, and become a united front in the field of mental health.


Honorable Mention ($100 Award) and People’s Choice Award ($100)

Melinda Lanius from Mathematics for “The Banana of my Eye”

“The apple of my eye” is something I cherish above all others. As a mathematician I study minimally degenerate Poisson manifolds. You can think of a Poisson manifold as the skin of a fruit. Imagine an apple. You probably imagine a fruit with a shiny bright red facade. This pristine and perfect skin corresponds to a non-degenerate Poisson structure. As is true when picking out fruit at the grocery store, many Poisson manifolds aren’t quite perfect, but come with dents and bruises. Given a fruit (Poisson manifold), with a minor blemish, I use calculus to try and understand the damage. Sometimes I can model this degeneracy and incorporate the blemish into the geometry. For instance, I can handle the depicted banana, splitting it apart to understand subtle nuances in the geometry that other mathematicians weren’t able to see before. However, I am unable to grapple with the bruise on the pear. Through the lens of Poisson geometry, I come to see flawed fruit as perfect and pristine. While this fruit may appear bruised or defective to another mathematician, it becomes the apple – or perhaps I should say banana – of my eye.


Congratulations to all of the winners and thanks to everyone who entered the competition!

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