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When research is presented through works of art

Research dissemination — If non-scientists or non-academics are to get interested in scientific research results, it can be a good idea to make a visual work of art out of it.

One way to disseminate science widely is to organise a photo contest that, with images and photos, tries to show us research up close – conveyed as an art form.

This is the purpose of ARTis (Art In Science) which is organized by the University of Copenhagen (UCPH). This year, 77 scientists sent in their artistically manipulated images, and from them nine have been declared winners in their respective categories. Researchers from all universities in Denmark and abroad may participate.

Artis writes on its website that it is the Faculty of Science at UCPH that this year has invited researchers to share their artistic visualizations of findings with others.

Best scientific explanation

The picture used to illustrate this article shows, for example, the distribution of lime (red) and clay (green) in a fossil from the collections at the Geological Museum at the University of Copenhagen. The fossil is 60 million years old and originated from w

Western Greenland, where there at this time were both deciduous and conifer trees, including the leaf from the taxodium, which is reproduced here.

ARTis 2017 winner in Best scientific explanationThe image shows the detailed calcite crystallization of each cell in the ancient leaf, and how organisms can be preserved in stone through millions of years. This makes it possible to study extinct animals from long ago and their habitats.

The picture is the winner in the category ‘best scientific explanation’. Its title is ‘painted in stone’, and the artist is Magnus August Ravn Hardin who works at the Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen.

Scientists can feel pain too

Danish writer Dan Turèll once wrote a poem with the title ‘Too much, man’. It was about the fact that no matter who you are, it’s not always easy. And people should realise that it’s easy to be a scientist.

According to Fabrizio Gualandris of the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), the picture below shows the pain that any PhD student has to go through while working on their PhD.

The image is the ARTis winner in the category ‘humoristic’.


Dramatic research

The image below is of a flower, but the image is taken through filters that emphasize the fluorescent light of the flower.

It is taken by Andrii Lapytsyi from the Toftevang school and is a winner in the category ‘young art-scientists’. The picture is just called ‘flower’.


Stork all alone

Capturing nature can be difficult. The photographer is dependent on the right lighting, the right place and a prey that is willing to be caught on camera. Here it is Carsten Wraae, an amateur photographer, who captured this white stork in the ‘Biologiska Museum’ in Stockholm. The scente with the stork is a diorama, and is called ‘the lonely stork’.

Carsten Wraae does not quite know himself if he believes his image is really ‘wildlife’, but it has won the Artis’ competition in the ‘amateur prize’ category.


Small is beautiful

Here the nanoparticles inside a glass beaker can look beautiful and fascinating. It is Helena Augusta Lisboa de Oliveira of the University of Brasilia who has taken the picture.

It is called ‘Precious Bequer in Flames’ and is the winner in the ‘macro’ category.

Creative by mistake

The winner in the artis category ‘mega’ is the picture below, which depicts galaxies floating together ‘only’ one billion years after the Big Bang. The picture is actually the result of a mistake in using three different (wrong) filters on the Hubble space telescope.

The picture does not represent what actually happens with galaxies. Instead, according to Alberto Giacometti who took the picture, “the purpose of art is not to reproduce reality, but to construct a reality of the same intensity.”

Like needles in a haystack

With the title ‘finding hay in a needle stack’, Michael Asger Andersen from the Department of Hematology at Rigshospitalet wins in the category ‘visualizations’.

The figure illustrates with a graph how 4,000 leukemia patients’ lymph nodes have grown over time. Patients have the CLL disease, where many of the most vulnerable patients die within three years.

Erotic dog fleas?

With the title ‘erotic art’, few people will probably associate the image below with a winning contribution in the ‘micro’ category.

It has been taken by Jannicke Wiik-Nielsen at the Norwegian Veterinary Institute, is taken with an electron microscope, and is of a dog’s flea’s feelers.

The winning picture

The winner of it all is in the category ‘artis prize 2017 – overall winner’.

The title is ‘beauty in seawater’ and, just like the micro image above, it is taken by an electron microscope by Jannicke Wiik-Nielsen from the Norwegian Veterinary Institute. The image is subsequently coloured. It represents a so-called Echtopleura Larynx, an organism that often grows on ropes lying in the water.

ARTis since 2015

The competition has been held since 2015 (see more photos from previous years here). It is an associate professor at the Department of Chemistry at UCPH Karen Martinez, who has been the driving force behind the project. This year, Artis’ pictures were displayed in the UCPH Ceremonial Hall at Frue Plads during the Night of Culture in Copenhagen in October where, according to Karen Martinez, about 3,500 people came to see them. The number of visitors has been increasing each year the competition has been held, and Artis continues to showcase the exhibition around the country. The next Artis competition will be announced in January, also on