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2019 FNR SCIENCE IMAGE COMPETITION LUXEMBOURG SCIENCE & RESEARCH

The FNR Science Image Competition was organised for the first time in 2019 on the occasion of the FNR’s 20th anniversary. The project has multiple aims: to show the growing role of images in scientific research, to reveal how scientific work is conducted, to give a face to the researchers conducting it and to present various ways to engage the public with science.

An international jury selected the winning photographs, images and videos, based on their aesthetic quality and their aptitude to inspire and fascinate, to convey or to illustrate knowledge, to narrate a story, to engage the public to explore a new universe.

We invite you to discover the winning (and distinction) images and videos of the first FNR Science Image Competition!

Category: Object of Study

WINNER

This is a healing bone.

This image illustrates the temporal dynamics of bone tissue formation. Sequential fluorochrome labels show the dynamics by means of four fluorescent dyes.

This snapshot of a fine slice of rabbit tibia was taken with a special fluorescence microscope by Bob Biewer from the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) / Laboratoire national de santé (LNS).

Four different fluorescent dyes were used to illustrate how bone tissue gradually reforms over time after the bone was wounded. Yellow – 1 week; orange – 3 weeks; green – 5 weeks and red – 7 weeks after wounding.

The objective of the study was to investigate the influence of low-intensity ultrasound on the healing and repair of irradiated bone. Magnification: 40x.

For the jury, this photo perfectly integrates the expectations that one should have in science, namely to show new worlds never seen before – or even imagined. A fascinating, mesmerising, puzzling and stimulating picture.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” ― Albert Einstein (1879-1955), theoretical physicist.

Photo: Bob Biewer, Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) / Laboratoire National de Santé (LNS)

OBJECT OF STUDY: DISTINCTION

This is a wasp's foot.

What looks like some threatening head with fangs, turns out to be the foot of an extremely common insect: a wasp. Called the tarsus, the foot has two toes (or claws) and a suction cup that allows the wasp to sit on flat surfaces. With the larger hairs, the wasp can clean itself.

An image that is definitely unsettling, maybe terrifying, but also mind-boggling.

For the jury, this is a shining example of how a detailed image changes the viewers perspective. It is an invitation to always have a closer look at things from everyday life.

"A small change in perspective makes the familiar look truly alien.” ― Felix Kleine Borgmann, Scientist, Luxembourg Center of Neuropathology, Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH).

Photo: Felix Kleine Borgmann, Luxembourg Institute of Health

OBJECT OF STUDY: DISTINCTION

These are wet films with liquid crystals.

Liquid crystals are found in nearly all electronic displays (TV monitors, smartphone and laptop screens). Because these materials have properties of both solids and liquids, meaning that they can either have order (like a solid) or no order (like a liquid), they are very sensitive and respond to external forces such as changes in temperature, chemical impurities, and even electricity.

The sensitivity to electricity is what helps us see images on our TV, laptop, and smartphone screens.

As a PhD candidate in Jan Lagerwall's laboratory at the University of Luxembourg, Catherine Reyes inserted liquid crystals into fibres to make responsive mats. When water vapour from a humid atmosphere condenses into liquid crystal-fibre mats, the fibres mesh to become films with wrinkles and textures that resemble undersea coral reefs.

This image was taken using a scanning electron microscope and the average size of the holes is 10 ‎μm (about 15x smaller diameter than a single human hair!)

The jury found this an intriguing image because it is not what you would expect initially. What at first sight looks like organic matter, turns out to be liquid crystals. This photo invites the viewers to be curious and to learn more about what they see.

"Sometimes adverse processing conditions in scientific research can lead to unexpected results that resemble patterns found in nature: inspiration for future materials!" ― Catherine Reyes, Scientist, University of Luxembourg.

Photo: Catherine Reyes, University of Luxembourg

Category: Men and women in science

WINNER

These are researchers collecting samples in an experimental field.

This image was taken with a drone above the experimental fields of la Bouzule farm near Nancy, France.

It shows researcher Boris Untereiner and Dr Xavier Goux from the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) about to start collecting soil samples for a project aiming to integrate biogas into the bioeconomy.

The tests carried out with the samples investigate whether digestate and its fractions can be used as substitutes for chemical fertilisers.

The scientists used a drone to capture field overviews to better visualise the layout of their tests. In the process, the scientists captured this portrait.

The jury found this image a strong construction based on geometrical lines, it is also a metaphor for the work of scientists and their relationship to their object of study: looking at their work from above while fully engaged in it.

"Photography does not reproduce the visible, rather, it makes visible “. ― Richard Avedon (1923-2004), fashion photographer and portraitist.

Photo: Boris Untereiner, Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST)

Category: Places and tools

WINNER

This is a lunar rover in Luxembourg.

This is the ispace development robot, which is located in a Moon testing facility here in Luxembourg.

This image shows an experimental rover, which is in fact a robot, in a testing facility replicating the Moon in Luxembourg.

Researcher Philippe Ludivig from the company ispace is teaching the robots to understand and explore the surface of the Moon on their own. The rover has multiple sensors, helping it to find its way around and analysing its environment.

The goal of their research is to teach the robot to take independent decisions on where to drive and how to get around obstacles.

The jury said the depicted rover might be perceived as something simple, some kind of remote controlled car. But in fact, it is an amazing piece of complex technology that should, one day, be able to explore the surface of the Moon.

The photo of a lander displayed in the background acts as a playful nod to the conspiracy theory that the Moon landing was a fake produced in a film studio.

"Space exploration requires going from great ideas to successfully tested ideas, before ever launching anything into space ". ― Philippe Ludivig, Researcher, ispace.

Photo: Philippe Ludivig, ispace

Category: Video loop

WINNER

These are liquid crystals under the influence of alcohol.

Liquid crystals are found in nearly all electronic displays (TV monitors, smartphone and laptop screens). Because these materials have properties of both solids and liquids, meaning that they can either have order (like a solid) or no order (like a liquid), they are very sensitive and respond to external forces such as changes in temperature, chemical impurities, and even electricity.

As a PhD candidate in Jan Lagerwall's laboratory at the University of Luxembourg, Catherine Reyes investigated liquid crystal behaviour in different solvents. Though the liquid crystal completely dissolves in ethanol (alcohol), as soon as the ethanol evaporates it scatters drops around, and the liquid crystal re-orders itself as colourful dots, like bright stars.

This video was recorded with a polarising optical microscope. The average size of the largest liquid crystal drop seen in the end is roughly 1 mm ‎wide.

This video is surprising, mesmerising, and beautiful at the same time. It keeps the viewers on their toes as it presents shapes morphing in very unusual ways, before transforming in an unexpected, and quite abstract, turn of events. The video demonstrates the unexpected visual and material territories developed by scientists.

A liquid crystalline (LC) compound (5CB) completely dissolves in ethanol, but as the ethanol evaporates it scatters drops of 5CB around, and its LC phase re-emerges like bright stars. Video captured using a polarising optical microscope viewed through crossed polarisers.

The jury found this video surprising, mesmerising, and beautiful at the same time. It keeps the viewers on their toes as it presents shapes morphing in very unusual ways, before transforming in an unexpected, and quite abstract, turn of events. The video demonstrates clearly the unexpected visual and material territories developed by scientists.

"Liquid crystals stand between the isotropic liquid phase and the strongly organized solid state. Life stands between complete disorder, which is death and complete rigidity. which is death again." ― D. G. Dervichian (1977), biophysicist.

Video: Catherine Reyes, University of Luxembourg

VIDEO LOOP: DISTINCTION

These are the building blocks of the human brain.

Invisible to the naked eye, an uncountable number of cells are the building blocks of the human body. Different types of cells fulfil different functions. The closer we can get to the cells visually, the better we can understand how the human body works.

In this video, we get a glimpse through a simple light microscope – a scientist’s view – of living nerve cells in a culture dish that were derived from patients with Parkinson’s disease.

The video was recorded by Kobi Wasner from the Luxembourg Center for Systems Biomedicine at the University of Luxembourg, who studies pathways contributing to the neurodegeneration of nerve cells in Parkinson’s disease.

From micro to macro in less than a blink of an eye. This video is surprising in its simplicity. Real, rapid, and efficient.

"The human brain has evolved so incredibly that it has accomplished the feat of scientifically generating its own kind in order to better understand, investigate and treat its own maladies." ― Kobi Wasner , doctoral researcher, Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) - University of Luxembourg.

Video: Kobi Wasner, Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) at the University of Luxembourg.

VIDEO LOOP: DISTINCTION

This is a Turing machine simulation of encrypting data.

A Turing machine is an idealized model of a modern computer that, in theory, can carry out a logical procedure within a finite amount of time. These logical procedures (programs) can be illustrated as images on a 2D grid. In this series of images, the Turing machine generates symbols on a grid that are displayed as colours (so-called generative art).

Here we see an example of data being loaded (what first looks straight lines with purple-white pattern) and then being encrypted by scrambling the data (what looks like the purple-white pattern being cut up and mixed).

This example of a Turing machine was created by scientist Sankalp Ghatpande from the Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT) at the University of Luxembourg.

The jury found this video to be like time travel from 1980’s to today. What looks like a simple pixelised 8-bit style logo, in fact visualises a very complicated and abstract process – that of encryption, a major topic of our current digitised and connected world. Conceptual and artistic.

"Science, like art, is not a copy of nature but a recreation of her”. ― Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974), mathematician and historian.

Video: Sankalp Ghatpande, University of Luxembourg (SnT)

Category: Science engagement activities

WINNER

This is a science communicator acting as a colour tamer during a science show.

The physics of light is anything but simple. Nevertheless, a science communicator from the Luxembourg Science Center captures his audience during a science show about optics.

Complex concepts are grasped by the audience through interactive guessing games and spectacular experiments illustrating the absorption and reflection of light.

The three coloured circles in the picture show the phenomenon of colour mixing: when red, green and blue light are added together with the right intensity, you obtain white light (which can be seen in the centre of the three circles).

And: have you ever wondered why you can see the path of a laser beam in the dark?

The jury found the the formal construction quite rich and pleasant: Three discs on the left, the thin laser ray, and the luminescent glasses that indirectly suggest a human presence in this otherwise abstract scene. It is science engagement, it is fun. A strong picture!

“Science is not only a disciple of reason but, also, one of romance and passion”. ― Stephen Hawking (1942 -2018), theoretical physicist.

Photo: Nathalie Gales, Luxembourg Science Center

FNR'S VOTE

OBJECT OF STUDY

This is how your gut protects you.

This snapshot of a fine slice of a mouse intestine was taken with a special fluorescence microscope by Mathis Wolter and Mahesh S. Desai from the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH).

It shows a layer of cells lining the inside of the gut in blue and the mucus these cells produce in green. Visible is both a green layer of mucus as well as mucus still inside the cells as small green dots.

The mucus protects the gut from injury and invasion by dangerous pathogens. Mahesh and his team’s research have shown that reduced consumption of dietary fibre (contained in fruits and vegetables) forces the good bacteria in the gut to chew away the protective mucus.

This could potentially lead to various diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and food allergies. Magnification: 200x

"Empower the barrier for well-being” ― Mahesh Desai, Scientist, Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH).

Photo: Mahesh Desai, Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH)

These are nerve cells.

This picture of nerve cells from the gut was taken with a special fluorescence microscope by Gemma Gomez-Giro from the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) at the University of Luxembourg.

The white labelling marks the nerve cells with all their ramifications. The nerve cells were grown in a laboratory dish from stem cells.

The blue dots are the nuclei of cells, where the DNA content is stored. All cells have a nucleus, so the blue dots represent both nuclei of the white nerve cells, and other cells that are still in the dish (stem cells or other).

Only another fluorescent label could reveal what the other cells are. Gemma uses these cells to study the connection between the central and nervous system and the nervous system in the gut, and their role in Parkinson's disease. Magnification: 20x

“You don’t need to look at the sky to see veins of lightning turn darkness into light’’. ― Gemma Gomez-Giro, Postdoctoral Researcher, Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) - University of Luxembourg.

Photo: Gemma Gomez-Giro, Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) at the University of Luxembourg

This is the immune system fighting breast cancer cells.

This picture was taken with a special fluorescence microscope by researcher Céline Hoffmann from the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH).

It shows breast cancer cells (green) that were allowed to grow into a 3D lump in a laboratory culture dish, mimicking a tumour.

When cells from the immune system (orange) are added to the dish, they attack the lump, trying to get rid of it. However, some breast cancer cells can produce a “shield” (visible as bright green, top left of the lump) and thereby evade the immune system.

The blue colour represents all the nuclei, both of immune and cancer cells.

Céline tries to understand the different strategies deployed by cancer cells to escape immune cell killing. The goal is to counteract cancer cell evasion and restore immune cell efficiency. Width of the image: 100 µm.

"The power of microscopy is to shed light on the beauty and complexity of a fascinating and unsuspected world”. ― Céline Hoffmann, Scientist, Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH).

Photo: Céline Hoffmann, Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH)

This is how floods are observed from space.

The robotic eyes of orbiting satellites not only remind us how captivatingly beautiful Earth is from above, they also support disaster risk reduction on a global scale.

The radar onboard Sentinel-1 provides detailed information on the extent of water bodies day and night, regardless of weather conditions.

This image shows a map illustrating how often different parts of the Irrawaddy river delta in Myanmar were flooded during the Monsoon season.

The strong black lines indicate the rivers and permanent water bodies. The blue colour intensity displays frequency of flooding: the darker the blue, the more often the area was flooded.

The map was generated by scientists from the “Remote sensing and natural resources modelling” group at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST).

They used LIST’s HASARD algorithm, which was developed to automatically produce, record and disseminate accurate floodwater maps that can be used by as many people as possible.

"Man must rise above the earth - to the top of the atmosphere and beyond - for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives." ― Socrates, Greek Philosopher (470-399 BC).

Photo: Patrick Matgen, Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST)

This is a mini brain grown in the lab.

This is a snapshot of a brain organoid, a “mini-brain” grown in the lab. Brain organoids are 3D structures grown from human stem cells, which have the intrinsic capacity to self-organise into the structures that mimic early brain development.

The organoids are used to understand human brain development and neurological disorders. The image shows a midbrain organoid and the colours the different cellular structures found in those organoids: immature nerve cells (red); dopaminergic nerve cells - their loss is associated with the development of Parkinson’s disease; floor plate - a structure that helps organise the developing brain; DNA (blue).

The image was taken by Isabel Rosety from the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine at the University of Luxembourg, using a special fluorescence microscope. She uses midbrain organoids to investigate the neuro-development aspect of Parkinson’s disease. Magnification: 20x.

“As history has shown, pure science research ultimately ends up applying to something, we just don’t know it at the time.” ― Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and science communicator.

Photo: Isabel Rosety, Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) at the University of Luxembourg

MEN AND WOMEN IN SCIENCE

Viruses – boon and bane (or Boon and bane of viruses).

Viruses are generally perceived as dangerous, but they can also be useful. For example, as a laboratory tool to inactivate genes in human or animal cells.

Scientists at the Cancer Metabolism Group at the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) do this to study the metabolism of cells.

As working with infectious viruses remains dangerous, the scientists have to be careful: they work under a chemical hood and wear protective clothing including gloves, mask and gown.

For aesthetic reasons, the photo was digitally turned Black and White and only the red objects in the picture maintained their original colour: the cap of the cell culture flasks, the trash bag and the pipette holder.

“Science is not like black and white: You have to be open to change your ideas flexibly, depending on the experimental findings" ― Cancer Metabolism Group, Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH).

Photo: Cancer Metabolism Group , Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH)

PLACES AND TOOLS

This is plasma – the fourth state of matter.

The purple-white light in this photograph is plasma – the fourth state of matter besides solid, liquid and gas.

Natural plasma occurs for example in lightning and polar aurorae. It can be created in the lab by exposing a gas to high energy (e.g. very high temperature, high current or strong electromagnetic field).

In general, the obtained ionised gas is composed of positively charged ions, negatively charged electrons and neutral atoms, molecules and radicals.

All these high reactivity species can be used to trigger chemical or physical reactions, or to create materials with new characteristics.

The plasma discharge in the photo was created in a quartz tube using microwaves, by scientist Baba Kamal at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST).

The device is used to coat and treat 1D substrates such as wires and optical fibres. Kamal uses plasma to engineer the next generation of smart materials.

"Plasma - Engineering the next generation of smart materials using the fourth state of matter”. ― Baba Kamal, Research Engineer, Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST).

Photo: Baba Kamal, Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST)

SCIENCE ENGAGEMENT ACTIVITIES

This is augmented reality.

There is no limit to the creativity of the visitors in the Luxembourg Science Center. Here, a heart-shaped island was moulded in an interactive sandbox using augmented reality.

An infrared camera on top of the system measures in real-time the different heights of the sand hills. A projector then colours the varying heights and draws contour lines: points of high altitude get reddish-yellowish colours while low points get bluish colours, imitating groundwater. Erosion will eventually get rid of this cute landscape...

„Science comes in all colours. “ ― Nathalie Gales, Science Communicator, Luxembourg Science Center.

Photo: Luxembourg Science Center

This is how you turn a table tennis ball into a fireball.

Certain plastics are highly flammable. Table tennis balls are made of plastic celluloid which contains 70 to 80 percent of nitrocellulose. As soon as they catch fire, a bright flame can be observed.

This experiment is part of a science show at the Luxembourg Science Center, during which a science communicator plunges with his audience into the world of polymers – the stuff that plastics are made of.

"The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.“ ― Plutarch (46-125), philosopher, biographer, essayist, and priest.

Photo: Luxembourg Science Center

A research robot at a comic book festival.

The QT robot featured in the photo, is a humanoid social robot that has been developed at the University of Luxembourg.

It is involved in several research projects and is giving great results in helping children with autism to learn social skills.

QT is also featured in one of seven short comics produced by 22 doctoral students from the University of Luxembourg as a public outreach activity during their science communication training.

This photo was taken at the International Festival of Comic Books in Contern, where the University of Luxembourg took part for the first time in 2019.

“The relationship between human intelligence and artificial intelligence (HI + AI) will necessarily be one of symbiosis. The challenge and potential of exploring this co-evolutionary future is the biggest story of the next century and one in which a closeness in development velocity is a necessity” ― Bryan Johnson, entrepreneur, CEO of Kernel.

Photo: Isabel Rosety, Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) at the University of Luxembourg