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Capturing the Art of Research: Celebrating the 2020 prize recipients

July 14, 2020

It was another record-breaking year for the Art of Research photo contest, with more than 100 faculty, staff, students, and alumni submitting engaging and thought-provoking research images. The 2020 competition is the largest in the contest’s five-year history, with images winning 10 category and special prizes.


The Art of Research images take us behind-the-scenes of the everyday research experience. From images capturing remote fieldwork to invisible particles under the microscope, the Art of Research seeks to spark curiosity and visualize the ground-breaking research happening at Queen’s. The contest strives to represent the diversity and creativity of Queen’s research, with winners representing multiple disciplines and submissions highlighting research happening at all career stages. Discover this year’s winners below and to view more contest winners and top submissions from the past five years, explore The Art of Research Photo Gallery.


Category: Invisible Discoveries

Porous Plastic Particle

Submitted by: Ross Jansen-van Vuuren
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Chemistry
Location: Bruce Hall, SEM Lab, Queen’s University

The photograph is of a water-swollen hydrogel particle created in our chemistry laboratory, taken with an instrument called a Scanning Electron Microscope, which allows us to zone in and see important details on the surface of the hydrogel. A hydrogel is essentially a plastic material that is able to absorb very large volumes of water (up to 800 times its weight!) – much like a baby diaper, swelling as it does so. From the image, the surface of the hydrogel is seen to possess large, distinctive pores, which help us understand how and why hydrogels absorb so much liquid.


Category: Out in the Field

Nature’s van Gogh

Submitted by: Hayden Wainwright
Student (MSc), Biology
Location: South Frontenac County, Ontario, Canada

Algal blooms appear as smears of green slime from the ground, but are beautiful pieces of abstract art from an aerial view, painted by wind and sunlight. My research takes me to lakes on the Canadian Shield affected by blooms, where I photograph them with a drone while assistants help me collect water samples. By uncovering when, where, and why they appear, we hope to restore some of Canada’s most beautiful lakes to their pristine states.


Category: Best Description

Under the Umbrella

Submitted by: Grace Adeniyi-Ogunyankin
Faculty, Gender Studies; Geography and Planning
Location: Ibadan, Nigeria

On a very hot day, I went to the Adelabu Market in Ibadan, Nigeria, to meet Sarah. Several phone calls later, we found each other. She brought me inside a nearly abandoned plaza. “Less noisy,” she said. We climbed up to the highest floor. During the interview, she told me her livelihood as a market woman funded her children’s education. Rain or shine, she is at the market every day, under her umbrella. When we finished the interview, I looked down. What a view! As I snapped a photo, I wondered: “What are the stories of the other people under the umbrellas?”


Category: Art in Action

The Wiring of the Brain

Submitted by: Donald Brien
Staff, Centre for Neuroscience Studies
Location: Centre for Neuroscience Studies, MRI Facility, Queen’s University

An example of Diffusion Spectrum Imaging (DSI) from Queen’s new Prisma Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Some of the most beautiful images generated by MRI are created by imaging the diffusion (movement) of water throughout the brain. From this diffusion, we can generate maps of the neuron connections that are responsible for carrying messages from one area of the brain to another. Seen here, they are coded by direction, such that blue tracts move from foot to head, red tracts move from left to right in the head, and green tracts move from the front to the back of the head.  There are 30,000 tracts displayed in this image. By adulthood, the average person has ~160,000 km total length of these tracts.


Category: Community Collaborations

Researchers at Offroad Robotics

Submitted by: Heshan Fernando
Student (PhD), Mechanical and Materials Engineering
Location: Offroad Robotics, Jackson Hall, Queen’s University

A group of multidisciplinary engineering researchers with expertise in mining and construction applications, mechanical and mechatronics systems, as well as electrical and computer engineering collaborate to develop the next generation of field and mobile robots.


Category: People’s Choice

Learning From the Land

Submitted by: Sarah Flisikowski
Student (MES), School of Environmental Studies
Location: Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories, Canada

The transmission and documentation of traditional knowledge and skills is of great importance to Inuit, especially considering the continuing social, environmental, and economic changes in the Arctic. I am examining how Inuit traditional knowledge is generated and shared through a case study of an existing project in Ulukhaktok called Nunamin Illihakvia, which means “learning from the land” in Inuinnaqtun. Participants from other Inuvialuit communities were invited to travel to Ulukhaktok in February 2020 to participate in cultural activities that promoted discussion on what a cultural learning program should include. This photo shows our first trip out on Queen’s Bay together.


KGHRI Prize

This is EPIC: Simulation Education with Patient Actors to Improve Care

Submitted by: Monakshi Sawhney
Faculty, School of Nursing
Location: Education and Research Centre, North York General Hospital, Toronto, Ontario

Simulation education, using standardized patient actors, is a unique way to provide education in health care settings to practicing clinicians. It is an opportunity to practice assessment skills and critical thinking in a safe environment that mimics the patient care setting. Our team implemented this concept at a hospital in Toronto, with a focus on researching the outcomes of a simulation intervention for nurses who care for patients receiving epidural analgesia for pain management after surgery. This photograph depicts the real-to-life patient care environment that was created for this study.

Sponsored by Kingston General Health Research Institute


Graduate Studies Prize

Shattered Planet

Submitted by: Allen Tian
Student (MSc), Biology
Location: Milburn Bay, Dog Lake, South Frontenac County, Ontario, Canada

The impact of human activity on our planet is often difficult to see in the moment, and requires a long-term, overlooking, view. This photo is a drone panorama of my field site on the Rideau Canal System, where I investigate the impact of human activity on aquatic ecosystems, particularly the development of toxic algal blooms. Activities such as fishing, property development and farming have fragmented and altered this ecosystem, and we need a holistic, broader view to piece together how we can protect our delicate, beautiful, world.

Sponsored by the School of Graduate Studies


Innovation, Knowledge Mobilization, and Entrepreneurship Prize

Propelling Research

Submitted by: Lauren Welte
Student (PhD), Mechanical and Materials Engineering
Location: Skeletal Observation Laboratory, Queen’s University

Our feet make contact with the ground millions of times within our lifetime, yet we still do not completely understand how they function. Using dynamic X-ray video, we image foot bones in ways we could only previously imagine. Recent work has questioned several popular theories about soft tissue function in the arch. Ongoing research aims to understand healthy foot function, to better inform treatments for foot pain. This research has the capacity to propel our understanding of foot function forward.

Sponsored by Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation


Health Sciences Prize

A Glance in the Brain

Submitted by: Natalia de Menezes Lyra e Silva
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Centre for Neuroscience Studies
Location: Centre for Neuroscience Studies, Queen’s University

The primate brain is highly specialized, allowing us an incredible range of experiences. This microscopic photo captures cells within a brain region, the hippocampus, involved with learning and memory. Every lived experience that we are able to remember has boosted the formation of new connections in our brains. These connections are affected in diseases that impair memory, such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Here, we can observe cells involved with the brain inflammatory response. These cells are upregulated in the brains of AD patients. This technique allows us to better understand how our brains work and how they are altered by diseases.

Sponsored by the Faculty of Health Sciences


Note: This article originally appeared on the Research @ Queen’s website.