2019 QUT Science in Focus winners revealed

21st October 2019

A unique black and white image reminiscent of retro sci-fi art from QUT’s Biofabrication and Tissue Morphology group has taken out the 2019 QUT Science in Focus Competition.

Dark fibres for a brighter future by Trent Brooks-Richards 

Dark fibres for a brighter future by Trent Brooks-Richards used striking contrast and depth of field to imaginatively capture cell scaffold that could one day make grafts for tissue repair and vascular stents more effective. Judges were impressed with its interpretation of synthetic biology, which is an exciting new area of research at QUT.

Science in Focus is an annual competition hosted by QUT’s Institute for Future Environments that has been uncovering the most surprising, beautiful and technically innovative visuals of important QUT research since 2014. Entries offer insight into the unique research processes and objects used by QUT researchers in their pursuit of new knowledge.

Second place was awarded to Lucas Milner, who created the spectacular image Vortex coral using a space colonisation algorithm within a spinning zero gravity vortex. The simulated model is used to visualise and accelerate the growth of coral, which are an extremely slow growing species, adding just 5 – 25 millimetres a year.

Vortex coral by Lucas Milner

A video of a coral polyp hunting and devouring a small shrimp took out third place. The lonely polyp by Dr Brett Lewis not only impressed judges with its astounding clarity and vibrant colour, but the background description, which paints a vivid story of the research.

Screenshot from The lonely polyp by Brett Lewis

The people's choice award was won by Amanda Cavalcanti for her stunning image The floating bone which is a rat knee bone coloured with Goldner's Trichrome. Researchers from QUT's Centre in Regenerative Medicine use this technique to differentiate areas of bone and soft tissue in the study of bone tumours.

The floating bone by Amanda Cavalcanti

In addition to images and video, virtual and augmented reality entries were eligible this year for the first time. Several were selected as shortlisted entries in the first round of judging.

Congratulations to our 2019 winners

View the 2019 top 10 finalists

2019 finalists (in alphabetical order by first name):

Science in Focus prize pool:

  • First prize: $1200
  • Second prize: $500
  • Third prize: $250
  • People’s choice award: $250

Entries were judged on visual impact, creativity and originality, technical proficiency and the significance of the research.

2019 judging panel

  • Prof Sagadevan Mundree: Director, QUT Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities (CTCB)
    Prof Mundree leads the CTCB research team who are helping feed the world by developing more resilient and nutrious tropical crops such as bananas, chickpeas, lentils and mungbeans.
  • Dr Ross Brown: Senior Lecturer, QUT School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
    Research interests: immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR).
  • A/Prof Jennifer McLeod: Associate professor in nanotechnology, QUT Science and Engineering Faculty
    Research interests: nanoscience - the self-assembly and reactions of molecules at surfaces, and the growth and modification of graphene and other 2D materials.
  • A/Prof Debra Cushing: Discipline leader, QUT Creative Industries
    Research interests: architecture, Urban and Regional Planning

So what makes a great entry?

This is what some of the previous Science in Focus judges had to say:

Jared Donovan, Senior Lecturer Interaction Design, QUT Creative Industries

“Seek out images that tell a story about your science and provide the viewer with a new perspective or insight. Make use of the elements of composition and design – employing line, shape, colour, texture, form, contrast and space to tell your story with a clarity of purpose and economy of means.”

Kate Haggman, Communication Manager, QUT Science and Engineering Faculty 

“The images I find most striking are those that show me a piece of our world from a new perspective – images like last year's microscopic dental tape and rat bone entries. If you're going to submit microscopic images, make sure to use your time and skill to colour them well. As a science communicator, I'm looking for quality, polished works that have an interesting research backstory worthy of profiling in QUT publications.”

Dr Jamie Riches, Senior Research Officer (Electron Microscopy)

“In my view, a successful entry is one that is aesthetically beautiful and also tells a tale of the importance and impact of the research. The description of the work is very important in putting the work in context and explaining to the audience (and the judges!) why they should care about the entry. Is it that the underlying research is addressing important problems that are relevant to them, or is it rather that capturing the image has required significant technical challenges to be overcome? This is an area where some entries have fallen short in the past, and I would encourage entrants to submit an interesting and informative description that does justice to their image, and explains the value and wonder of their science to the viewer.”

Man Cheung, Artist

“Submit an entry that satisfies your creative or artistic truth. A sure thing for self-disappointment is submitting an image or video only because you think the judges ‘might’ like it.

Read the guidelines thoroughly and ensure your entry fulfils all criteria. This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many entrants don’t do this! Make sure your entry is high quality; is it high resolution enough? Are the images sharp, are they legible and do they have clarity?

Creativity is so subjective, but if you submit something that you are truly proud of and loved creating, win or lose you know you have done the best you can.”

What can be entered?

  • Photography
  • Lighta and electron microscopy
  • Motion graphics
  • Video
  • Digital or hand-drawn illustrations
  • 3D renders
  • X-rays
  • Machine outputs and scans
  • Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality displays

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