Scientific research often produces beautiful images. Sharing these images and the advances they represent provides a special opportunity to communicate the importance, interest, and impact of scientific research on society.
The winning images presented in this gallery, submitted by Northwestern University researchers, represent a wide range of disciplines, including medicine, genetics, chemistry, engineering and nanotechnology.
We invite you to enjoy both the aesthetic beauty and exciting science that these images portray.
CLICK ON AN IMAGE TO SEE IT IN FULL.
Graduate Student, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
The organization of cells in a tissue is one of the most important determiners of the function of that tissue. For example, the cells that make up arterial tissue are circumferentially aligned, forming a tube and allowing them to contract. McClendon, a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Samuel Stupp, is studying how a gel made up of nanoscale fibers can provide cells with an instructional scaffolding on which to grow, with the eventual aim of generating human tissues, like new blood vessels, outside the body. By placing cells and the gel together in a tube, and then squeezing the mixture out at a certain speed and direction, the fibers – only eight nanometers in diameter – will be aligned correctly, allowing the cells to grow correctly amongst them. In this image, the solution was squeezed out of the tube more quickly than it was dragged forward, producing a ripple of solution rather than a straight line.
Graduate Student, Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Increasing the efficiency of rechargeable batteries will also increase the viability of many clean energy technologies – for example, by allowing us to better store intermittent, renewable energy like solar power. Jaber-Ansari, a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Mark Hersam, is studying how metallic carbon nanotubes used as an electrode in lithium ion batteries can improve performance. Each tube, made up of a single layer of carbon atoms, is less than one nanometer in diameter, or one-billionth of a meter. Because of their size, they provide exceptionally high surface area and a more porous structure, allowing them to accommodate more lithium ions – more energy – than other materials. They are also strong and flexible, meaning they can endure many recharge cycles. Bundles of these tubes can be seen in the center of the image (purple), and either side of the image shows lithium and electrolyte (both in white) interspersed between the tubes.
Graduate Student, Department of Cell and Molecular Biology
To date, not much is known about the way the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is sexually transmitted. Carias, a graduate student in Dr. Thomas Hope's laboratory, is studying how HIV influences immune cell distribution, and how hormonal treatments affect this. She is comparing tissue samples that have a thin outermost layer of cells, known as epithelium, with tissues that have thicker epithelium. If the epithelial layer is thicker, live cells and immune cells will be further from the surface and presumably less accessible to the virus. This image depicts tissue from the lower portion of the cervix that has been exposed to HIV for 24 hours. Prior to exposure, the tissue was treated with Depo Provera, a drug known to thin the epithelial layer. Green areas depict cervical tissue, and blue areas denote live cells within the tissue. The bright pink flecks are immune cells that can be targeted by HIV.
Graduate Student, Department of Molecular Biosciences
Inside each living cell is an organism's complete set of genetic information, or DNA. Segments of DNA, known as genes, are activated or deactivated depending on the cell type (heart cell vs. fat cell) and the organism's ever-changing external environment. This process is called gene expression, and it’s controlled by a complex network of signals. Using fruit flies, Cassidy, a graduate student in Dr. Richard Carthew's laboratory, is studying how a set of genes known as microRNAs help control gene expression by deactivating genes when necessary. This image depicts a properly developed fruit fly retina. Each honeycomb-like structure, outlined in red, represents a collection of several cells. The bluish-green areas denote where one of these genes, microRNA-7, is present. The fruit fly retina presents an easy way to observe malfunctioning regulatory networks, as one error in development would disrupt the otherwise perfectly patterned structure.
Staff, Northwestern University’s Atomic and Nanoscale Characterization Experimental Center (NUANCE)
Developing synthetic microcapsule capable of traveling to specific parts of the body and delivering chemical substances, like medications, is an exciting application of nanotechnology. This image, taken by Myers, a scanning electron microscopist at NUANCE, shows a number of these capsules, which are made of a fibrous synthetic shell with a gel or liquid core. This synthetic shell can be easily modified to target different cells in the body and to control the release of the substance it carries. For example, these capsules could be designed to target cancer cells and, once found, release an anti-cancer drug.
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
This image depicts nanowires (yellow) made of the compound manganese oxide that asymmetrically self-assembled into structures resembling birds' nests. Zhao, a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Harold Kung, has been studying how better-organized, vertically aligned nanowires might be used in energy storage devices like batteries.
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Chemistry
Submitted by Lee, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. George Schatz's laboratory, this computer rendering depicts a self-assembled structure made up of short chains of amino acids, or peptides. Amino acids are the naturally occurring building blocks of proteins. Structures such as this are being designed and studied for their potential to promote the regeneration of damaged neurons and treat patients with spinal cord injuries.
Staff, Feinberg School of Medicine
Taken by Dimbert, a staff member in the laboratory of Dr. Harris Perlman, this image depicts a mouse kidney infected with lupus, a chronic, inflammatory, autoimmune disease. The glomeruli, capillaries in the kidneys that filter blood to create urine, are visible in the bottom left and top right. Red blood cells are shown diagonally across the middle.
Graduate Student, Department of Electrical Engineering
This image shows two gold-coated microspheres which Kohoutek, a graduate student in the laboratory of Hooman Mohseni, is using to experimentally detect the Casimir force. The Casimir force, which was first predicted in 1947, is the attractive force between two objects in a vacuum space - a space devoid of matter at absolute zero temperature. Literally, it's a force that comes from nothing. However, with a better understanding of quantum mechanics - the behavior of matter on the atomic and subatomic scale - the Casimir force can now be detected and measured, and it is known to be very important on the nanoscale.
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Physics and Astronomy
This image shows the growth of transparent graphene - a single or a few layers of carbon atoms - on a film of nickel. Kuljanishvili, a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Venkat Chandrasekhar, is studying the growth process of graphene on a nanoscale and its electronic properties.
Research Associate, Pathology Core Facility
The design visible in this image, taken by Parini, a research associate at the Pathology Core Facility, is the result of an unintentional yet beautiful artifact. The artifact was created by the chemical solution that is used to mount a cover-slip onto a glass slide. The slide contains a tissue specimen - in this case breast cancer tissue (not represented in the image) - for microscopic examination.
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Molecular Biosciences
Taken by Rossman, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Robert Lamb's laboratory, this image depicts membrane-wrapped fluid sacs known as vesicles. Rossman uses these vesicles as a simple model to study the mechanisms of virus budding, the process by which some viruses exit the cell they've infected.