The winners of the 2022 Undergrad competition have been announced!

We have chosen this year’s Image of Research – UR Edition award winners:

  • 1st place ($300): Mit Kotak, “3D Visualization of Binary Black Hole Merger”
  • 2nd place ($200): Jaylon Muchison, “Too Cool to Cry”
  • Honorable mentions ($50 each): Bhavya Pardasani, “Evolution of a Milky Way-like Galaxy and its Satellite Galaxies” and Neha Arun, “Pink, Green, and the Cure to HIV”

The winners were chosen by an interdisciplinary panel who judged entries on 1) connection between image, text and research, 2) originality, and 3) visual impact.

Many congratulations to Mit, Jaylon, Bhavya, and Neha!

All of the submissions will be on display Thursday, 4/28 at the Undergraduate Research Symposium in the Illini Union Ballroom from 9am-4:30pm. I hope you will stop by to see all of the submissions and to celebrate the amazing undergraduate research that is happening by our undergraduates at Illinois.

Also, entries will be on display on the digital signage in the Main and Undergraduate Libraries and our primary social media accounts – so be on the lookout! [Library Instagram: imageofresearch_ugr and the Office of Undergraduate Research Instagram: ugresearch_ui.]

Second, all images will be archived in the institutional repository, IDEALS. You can view all of the past winners:

With many thanks to this year’s judges: Sanga Sung, Janis Shearer, Eric Kurt, Merinda Hensley, and Natasha Mamaril (Program Director, Illinois Scholars Undergraduate Research (ISUR) Program, The Grainger College of Engineering). The Image of Research at Illinois was inspired by the Image of Research competition at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The 2022 competitions are supported by a gift to the Scholarly Commons from Mrs. Mardell J. O’Brien.

The winners of the 2018 Undergrad competition have been announced!


The entries for this year’s Undergraduate Image of Research Competition will be displayed at the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium on Thursday April 19th in the Illini Ballroom, Rooms A, B, and C, from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM. All of the entries will soon be on display in IDEALS.

The winners of this years competition are as follows:

First place ($300 award): John Rossi

Fassi Tanner

This image, taken in the tanneries of Fes, was captured during my semester abroad in the kingdom of Morocco during Fall 2017. Despite departing to research political and economic effects of North Africa’s Arab Spring, I also embarked on a journey to capture a glimpse of a hidden Morocco through my camera and to reflect the areas of my studies into my images. A visit to these tanneries will highlight the cross between the changing economics and cultures in the Maghreb, to those who look carefully. While Fes and its tanneries have operated as a knowledge hub and economic center for over 1,000 years, today they serve primarily as a tourist attraction, where visitors like those from Europe, America, and China can watch the workers and purchase souvenirs. As unemployment rises, especially among the Moroccan youth, more and more citizens take jobs serving tourists, both in the formal and informal sectors of the economy. NGOs, co-ops, and organizations such as the UN Economic Commission for Africa are working to spur sustainable, youth-centric development not only in Morocco but across North Africa and the rest of the continent. This image is a part of my “Morocco in Light” photo essay.

Second place ($200 award): Heer Majithia

Masquerading Jelly

Jellies, 97% water, are little more than pulsating bells with trailing tentacles. Yet, these creatures are remarkably varied in appearance and found in waters across the globe. The photograph depicts an SEM image of a ruptured microcapsule as the bell shaped body of the jelly as it releases the core material, which has been embellished with the tentacles along with the color for enhanced impact. Much like jellies, microcapsules are found in diverse environments and can have a wide range of applications from drug delivery and phase changing materials to cosmetics and cleaning supplies. Microencapsulation of materials is beneficial as it increases their stability and allows for controlled release of the encapsulated material. My work is focused on the fabrication of multi-responsive microcapsules which can be triggered to release the core material by multiple mechanisms while maintaining stability under ambient conditions.

Honorable Mention ($50 award): Nicole Jugovich

A Happy Accident

In the words of Bob Ross, “We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.” The organic semiconductor crystals pictured in this image were the result of a “happy accident” in which I prepared a solution using the wrong solvent. I placed a drop of solution on a substrate, and this crystalline structure formed as the solvent evaporated. My research aims to deepen our understanding of how single crystals form and what causes crystals to adopt different characteristics. These organic semiconductor crystals may one day be used in many electronic devices. However, the crystal formation process must be studied more in-depth before these organic crystals can be used on a large scale. Some advantages of organic electronics over their traditional inorganic counterparts include their low cost and flexibility. Crystal research could not only potentially improve the overall quality of organic electronics, but it could also lead to the discovery of inexpensive, efficient ways to create these materials. With enough patience, optimism, and methodical research, perhaps the findings will be a happy “non-accident!”

Honorable Mention ($50 award): Elena Wilson

Kidney Kaleidoscope

This image represents the beauty and complexity of science, giving just a glimpse into the intricacies of the human body. Kidney stones are common, occurring in roughly 1 in 11 individuals, and are renowned for their excruciating pain and high costs to the healthcare industry. Each is a unique geologic record of development and dissolution, change and stability, art and science. Kidneys are responsible for ridding waste products from the body by making urine. Sometimes, minerals aggregate inside the kidney, making a stone and  blocking urine flow. The exact mechanism of kidney stone growth is still unknown. The multidisciplinary approach based on analysis of images like these gives information on crystallization patterns, allowing for a creation of a minute to minute record of stone development. This information has the potential to be applied to other mineralization pathologies in the body, such as gallstones, osteoarthritis and cholesterol plaques on blood vessels.


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

The winners of the 2017 Undergrad competition have been announced!


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

First place ($300 award): Rebecca Boehning

A Semiconductor Rose by Any Other Name

To quote Shakespeare, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”- however, the “roses” in my photo are not true roses at all. These miniature roses are made from organic semiconductor crystals. They are approximately 100 microns in diameter, which is the width of a human hair. While these crystals can reflect any color of light, I have colored them red to increase the contrast and enhance the imagination. My research focuses on understanding the crystal growth of organic semiconductors. While most semiconductor materials are inorganic, such as silicon, the compounds I work with offer an organic alternative. Organic semiconductors, if used effectively, offer several benefits such as flexible electronic applications and low energy manufacturing compared to silicon wafers. Before organic semiconductors can be used industrially, the underlying crystallization mechanism must be understood. While the image shown here would not make an effective electronic device, the rose-shape of these crystals abstractly portray their organic character. In the future, organic semiconductors can provide a viable alternative for commonly used semiconductors today– or, in other words, an organic semiconductor by any other name would work as well.

A Semiconductor Rose by Any Other Name by Rebecca Boehning

Second place ($200 award): Andrew Tran

Colorful Emotions

Roses are red, violets are blue, and octopuses are green, yellow, and brown. Colors are important representations of emotions, whether in poems or in octopuses. Remarkably, the octopus already displays mastery in controlling its chromatophores – the cells in its skin that gives it the unique ability to change color – despite being only two days old. Our research studies memory integration in the peripheral nervous system of the octopus – can the octopus store memory in its eight arms? However, it would also be interesting to examine if the pigments themselves can store memory and display emotion without the need of a brain. Interestingly enough, we have already witnessed learning behavior through color change in the octopus. When threatened or angry, the octopuses would turn red, much like how our cheeks turn red when we are feeling frustrated. When communication from the brain to the arm is severed, the arm still retains the ability to change colors and interact with its surroundings. Understanding the meanings of these colors could shed light on how these organisms use color to communicate, and maybe if the green polka dots on the heart shaped tentacles of the octopus in the picture means ‘love’ or ‘back off’.

Colorful Emotions by Andrew Tran

Honorable Mention ($50 award): Jesse Han

Encouraging Excellence in Planning and Design Processes and Practices in Underserved Communities

The original image was taken from a design-build project in Arusha, Tanzania. I, along with 20 other students, partnered with a local orphanage, Neema Village, to design and build a permanent home for the unadoptable children, where they could grow up with a family until adulthood. The project was a successful case study of what architecture can do when it considers the public’s interest from the beginning, throughout construction, and to occupancy. When designing, we considered the vernacular architecture along with the desires of the orphanage and learned building techniques from local craftsmen. The home is almost completely furnished and ready to house up to twelve children and a host family. Public Interest Design is a relatively new field within architecture which engages designers to use their skills to improve environments of underserved communities. Literature emerged in the form of websites, guidebooks, project analyses, and critical reflection, providing specific recommendations for practice and documenting case studies and methodologies. This paper presents the results of a comprehensive review of this literature to evaluate the breadth of existing resources for Public Interest Design and will explore how effectively the resources inform the public and train the next generation of public interest designers.

Encouraging Excellence in Planning and Design Processes and Practices in Underserved Communities by Jesse Han