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Functional and beautiful: winners of scientific image competition revealed

PUBLISHED: 10:18 09 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:07 31 October 2019

An Uncertain Future by Matt Heaton, John Innes Centre

An Uncertain Future by Matt Heaton, John Innes Centre

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Norwich Research Park has unveiled the winners of its Engaging Images competition, and the result is a collection of photographs which bridge the gap between science and art.

A cosy lawn by Juan Pablo Gomez-Escribano, John Innes CentreA cosy lawn by Juan Pablo Gomez-Escribano, John Innes Centre

Streptomyces bacteria and fungal rusts may not sound like the most compelling of subject matter, but a collection of photographs taken by those working at Norwich Research Park show that science can be both functional and beautiful.

Selected as the winners of the Engaging Images competition, the collection promotes the diversity of work carried out by the various institutions and businesses located at the park.

The 11 winning images will be displayed at an exhibition in The Forum as part of Norwich Science Festival in October, and it is hoped they will spark an interest in science.

"Much of the research into food and health done here on the park generates stunning imagery that often remains in the lab, but we think these images are so engaging that they need to be shared with the public as they are great for generating interest in science," explains Dr Jenni Rant, who works at the John Innes Centre, and organised the competition with colleague Samantha Stebbings.

Robotic assisted surgery with Mr Muhammad Rafiq, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital by NNUH NHS FTRobotic assisted surgery with Mr Muhammad Rafiq, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital by NNUH NHS FT

"Our aim is to build a library of images that schools, universities and businesses will be able to use for free, as long as they credit the image creator and institute at Norwich Research Park."

From abstract and other-worldly looking bacteria and mycoprotein, to the problems facing cereal farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, the pictures highlight how the world-leading research taking place at Norwich Research Park is changing lives across the globe.

"Images often create a personal connection because of the intriguing and amazing stories hidden behind the image," says Dr Nick Goodwin, chief operating officer at Anglia Innovation Partnership and one of the Engaging Images competition judges. "Other images simply stun you and transport you to another part of our world that you would never normally encounter. And, some images act as a record of the impact individuals have on others.

"Our final selection presents just some of the amazing work by scientists and clinicians from across the park and shows how their work really does change lives."

Digesting mycoprotein by Raffaele Colosimo, Quadram Institute BioscienceDigesting mycoprotein by Raffaele Colosimo, Quadram Institute Bioscience

The engaging side of the images was particularly important to fellow judge Jo Clitheroe, who is the science lead at Bignold Primary School, and coordinator of Norfolk Central Ogden Trust, which promotes the teaching and learning of physics. "I am always trying to find ways of engaging children in science," she explains. "These photographs showcase the fascinating and remarkable pioneering research happening at the park that will inspire the next generation of scientists."

A second competition, open to the public, will be launched at the Norwich Science Festival, where people will be invited to use the images as inspiration to create their own poem or piece of art. The winners will be featured in an exhibition at The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts and The Forum later in the year.

View Norwich Reasearch Park's full image library here.

AfriPlantSci19 - DNA extraction from local Kenyan plant tissue by Danny Ward, John Innes CentreAfriPlantSci19 - DNA extraction from local Kenyan plant tissue by Danny Ward, John Innes Centre

ENGAGING IMAGES WINNERS

An Uncertain Future by Matt Heaton, John Innes Centre

An Ethiopian farmer weeds his young wheat crop and checks for signs of rust while his son watches.

Sky at night by Thomas C McLean, University of East AngliaSky at night by Thomas C McLean, University of East Anglia

Ethiopia is the largest wheat producer in sub-Saharan Africa and many rely on the harvest it yields. With changing climates however, fungal rusts that damage the crop are becoming more prevalent.

Unless tighter detection and control strategies are developed, the future of cereal farmers is growing in uncertainty. The Saunders group at the John Innes Centre are developing new methods to track rust outbreaks more quickly so control methods can be coordinated to protect local farmers' crops.

A cosy lawn by Juan Pablo Gomez-Escribano, John Innes Centre

Left to right: Leafhopper nymph by Adi Kliot (sample preparation) and Eva Wegel (imaging), John Innes Centre; Wheat infected with the blast fungus in Meherpur, Bangladesh, by Nick Talbot, The Sainsbury Laboratory; Pioneering Diagnostic Device by NNUH NHS FTLeft to right: Leafhopper nymph by Adi Kliot (sample preparation) and Eva Wegel (imaging), John Innes Centre; Wheat infected with the blast fungus in Meherpur, Bangladesh, by Nick Talbot, The Sainsbury Laboratory; Pioneering Diagnostic Device by NNUH NHS FT

Most of the compounds we use as antibiotics, or that we transform into useful antibiotics, are obtained from soil-dwelling microbes called actinomycetes.

These bacteria grow as filaments on a solid substrate.

When the environmental conditions are adequate, part of the filaments grow into the air and develop into spores - tiny but strong reproductive structures that can persist even under very tough conditions (very high or very low temperature, complete dryness).

In this macro-photograph of a colony of the actinomycete Streptomyces coelicolor, you can see the lawn of thin white filaments over which drops of water have condensed and accumulated the blue antibiotic made by this microbe.

Delayed Fluorescence in Arabidopsis by Hannah Rees, Earlham InstituteDelayed Fluorescence in Arabidopsis by Hannah Rees, Earlham Institute

Robotic assisted surgery with Mr Muhammad Rafiq, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital by NNUH NHS FT

In January, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) celebrated three years of saving and transforming cancer patients' lives through robotic surgery.

The state-of-the-art robotic surgery equipment, operated by a surgeon, carried out the first radical prostatectomy in Norwich on February 18, 2016 to remove the prostate of a cancer patient, and since then has been used on average four times a week to help save more lives.

Streptomyces bacteria by Andrew Davis and Siobhan Dorai-Raj, John Innes CentreStreptomyces bacteria by Andrew Davis and Siobhan Dorai-Raj, John Innes Centre

Surgeons use the four-armed robot and console, which provides a magnified 3D view, for robotic assisted prostatectomies, bladder removal (cystectomy), partial kidney and kidney removal (nephrectomy) and colorectal surgery.

Digesting mycoprotein by Raffaele Colosimo, Quadram Institute Bioscience

Mycoprotein (such as Quorn™) is a food ingredient composed of fungal hyphae. Scientists at the Quadram Institute are investigating mechanisms underpinning the health benefits obtained by the consumption of these foods by determining how the complex mycoprotein structure (particularly the fibre in the cell walls) controls the digestion and the bioavailability of nutrients.

This image is an optical micrograph showing a fusion of the gastric (left) and intestinal (right) phases of an in vitro digestion of mycoprotein.

The internal proteins are stained in red/pink and are partially released during the digestion, whereas the cell wall fibres result intact with a shiny blue colour.

AfriPlantSci19 - DNA extraction from 1local Kenyan plant tissue by Danny Ward, John Innes Centre

Students of the AfriPlantSci19 summer school selecting from a variety of local plant samples for DNA extraction, purification and analyses.

This image was taken at the AfriPlantSci19 summer school at Pwani University, Kilifi, Kenya. The summer school is an initiative started by the John Innes Centre (JIC) and sessions like this were run by JIC staff and PhD students on internship placements in Africa.

Sky at night by Thomas C McLean, University of East Anglia

A bacterial colony of Streptomyces coelicolor growing on milk powder agar.

This bacteria make a blue pigmented antibiotic called actinorhodin which can be seen, secreted into the colony's surroundings, and in combination with the colour of the agar, appears darker than the typical sky blue.

Much research at the University of East Anglia, in collaboration with the John Innes Centre, has been centred around this fascinating and remarkable microorganism and related actinomycetes to better understand their basic biology and to uncover new antibiotics.

Leafhopper nymph by Adi Kliot (sample preparation) and Eva Wegel (imaging), John Innes Centre

Optical section through an Aster Leafhopper nymph Macrosteles quadrilineatus.

The leafhopper is infected with a phytoplasma bacterium that causes a disease in plants called Aster Yellows Witches' Broom. The leafhopper is therefore a vector for this bacterium, transmitting it from one plant to another as it feeds, causing susceptible plants to display symptoms of the disease.

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The magenta colour in the image shows the bacterium membrane and the green colour shows the presence of a protein secreted by the bacterium.

Scientists at the John Innes Centre are investigating the role of phytoplasma proteins in manipulating both plants and insects into working for the phytoplasma, in the hopes of disrupting it and stopping phytoplasma spread.

Bacterial plant diseases are causing billions in damages to crops worldwide and outbreaks can completely eradicate local industries, recent examples include the orange industry in Florida, olive orchards in Italy and lime industries in both south America and Oman.

Wheat infected with the blast fungus in Meherpur, Bangladesh, by Nick Talbot, The Sainsbury Laboratory

Wheat infected with the blast fungus in Meherpur, Bangladesh.

This destructive disease is a new plant health emergency for South Asia. It first appeared in the region in 2016 following imports of contaminated wheat from South America.

Scientists at The Sainsbury Laboratory and their Bangladeshi colleagues have developed open science platforms to tackle the outbreak.

Pioneering Diagnostic Device by NNUH NHS FT

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) has joined forces with the University of East Anglia (UEA) to develop a wearable piece of technology that hopes to speed up the diagnosis of the most common causes of dizziness.

Early prototypes of the Continuous Ambulatory Vestibular Assessment (CAVA) device have been in development since 2012. The research project has now received a grant from the Medical Research Council for the next three years to complete its design and to begin clinical trials to establish its effectiveness.

Dizziness is one of the most common reasons for a doctor to visit a patient over the age of 75 years old. However, due to the momentary characteristics of this symptom, patients are often well when they are assessed by a doctor. This device is unique as it will allow patients to be evaluated during a real dizziness attack in the community.

The CAVA device, which uses five electrodes attached to a person's head, has been designed to be lightweight, durable and can be worn day and night to monitor head and eye movements.

The School of Computing Sciences at the UEA is developing algorithms to identify seconds of eye flicker (nystagmus) from weeks of data recorded by the device. Principal Investigator John Phillips (pictured with the diagnostic device), who is a consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon at NNUH, said that they would be starting clinical studies later this year and would be seeking volunteers to test the device for a 30-day period.

Once fully developed and tested through NNUH sponsored trials, it is hoped that one day the device will be made available at the point of initial referral to a doctor or nurse to avoid delay in diagnosis and to ensure cost-effective use of precious NHS resources.

Delayed Fluorescence in Arabidopsis by Hannah Rees, Earlham Institute

Circadian clocks are inbuilt time-keepers which allow plants to anticipate daily changes in light and temperature. At the Earlham Institute on the Norwich Research Park we are studying circadian rhythms in Arabidopsis thaliana - a small flowering plant that is widely used as a model organism in plant biology - using delayed fluorescence (DF) imaging.

96-well plates contain around 20 seedlings which are pseudo-coloured for their delayed fluorescence intensity. Plates are imaged within a purpose-built dark room at the Earlham Institute using CCD-cameras capable of long exposure times. Photos are taken every hour over the course of a week and help scientists to measure the natural circadian rhythms of the plants. DF intensity levels oscillate with an approximately 24-hour rhythm even under constant light and temperature. Imaging plants like this allows us to identify clock-gene mutations and natural variation in circadian characteristics.

Awesome Actinomycetes by Siobhán Dorai-Raj and David Widdick (Sample cultivation), picture by Andrew Davies, John Innes Centre

The bacteria in the photograph is an actinomycete isolated from a soil sample collected by students in Monkfield Park Primary School, Cambourne. The students were taking part in a SAW Trust Outreach day. The SAW Trust aims to break down the traditional barriers between science, art and writing.

The outreach day involved a morning of experiments followed by poetry writing and art sessions inspired by the science. In the session, the children collected soil, diluted it and spread it on agar plates designed to encourage the growth of actinomycetes. These harmless soil bacteria naturally make chemicals which kill other microorganisms and are the basis for many of the antibiotics and other medicinally useful compounds currently in use. The bacteria which grew on the students' plates were isolated, purified and tested by scientists in the John Innes Centre. Several exhibited antibacterial action and the most promising had its entire genome sequenced - which is the first step in identifying the genes responsible for making antibiotics.

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