Winners of the 2024 UChicago Science as Art competition announced

The University of Chicago has announced the winners of its 2024 “Science as Art” contest, which highlights images of innovative scientific research from the UChicago community.

The contest drew more than 60 entries from undergraduates, graduate students, staff, alumni, postdoctoral researchers and faculty members, showcasing everything from fossils to fly anatomy. Together, these images display the pursuit of knowledge in a new light, underscoring the beauty of intellectual exploration.

The grand-prize winner is “Peculiar Dynamics” by Ph.D student Sam Everett.

Everett wrote: “Occasionally, when one is thinking about a mathematical object it can be useful to write simple computer programs that can illustrate the underlying phenomena, and thus help develop your intuition of the object at hand. This image was obtained through a computer program simulating a discrete dynamical system of the plane, which I was using to help answer some rudimentary questions. In this exhibited instance of the simulation, the dynamics look almost "organic" and "chaotic" around the origin.”

The audience favorite, chosen by a March Madness-style bracket on UChicago’s social media channels, is “Hidden City” by research technician Kaylie Scorza, SB’23.

This microscope image was taken during research on the bacteria that grow in our guts and help us digest food, regulate our immune systems, and perform other functions that we’re still investigating. Here, Scorza grew gut bacteria in broth; as the culture dried, the bacteria metabolites formed structures that react with polarized light to create vivid, kaleidoscopic patterns.

Three entries also received honorable mentions:

“Dancing of Ice Crystals” by Laboratory Schools student Jeffrey Wang

While doing summer research at the University of Chicago, Wang observed millions of fine ice crystals moving gracefully between a cold and a hot plate. The motion of the ice particles is called thermophoresis, which is also seen in complex atmospheric phenomena in nature.

“The World's Thinnest 'Girl with a Pearl Earring'” by postdoctoral fellow Donghyup Kim

Kim crafted this miniature copy of Vermeer’s ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ out of layers just a few atoms thick. He stacked 16 sheets of molybdenum disulfide one by one to create the image—each layer just three atoms thick and patterned in different shapes. The entire portrait is less than 10 nanometers thick; you would have to stack 10,000 of them to reach the thickness of a sheet of paper.

“Dancing colors of liquid crystal lattices” by postdoctoral researcher Antonio Tavera-Vazquez

This image was taken as Tavera-Vazquez studied the behavior of what are known as liquid crystals—a strange state of matter where materials can look like solid crystals but behave like liquids. When the crystals are repeatedly heated and cooled, they transform into different configurations which reflect light in different colors. In the picture, the large dark spot is the heat source; you can see the colors have a circular distribution around the spot. The entire field of view is actually smaller than the period at the end of a sentence.

View the full, stunning set of entries at the Flickr gallery.

Winners and entries will be displayed around campus in the coming year.