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  • Beautiful things in small packages

BioPhotonics
Jan 2015

Microscopes transport us to another world. They show us the invisible landscapes and vistas of life’s natural processes, normally hidden right under our noses. While it’s not hard to be amazed by the details of our world, some scientists are providing microimaging of the highest caliber – intersecting art with science and beauty with the bizarre – and making people stop in their tracks.

A screenshot of Drosophila embryonic development
A screenshot of Drosophila embryonic development. The video won first prize in the 2014 Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition. Courtesy of Lemon/Amat/Keller/Olympus Bioscapes.


Winners of the 11th annual Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition have been announced, with first prize given to a team from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn, Va. Dr. Fernando Amat, Dr. Philipp Keller and Dr. William Lemon captured video of a developing fruit fly embryo through custom-built simultaneous multiview light-sheet microscopy. The embryo was recorded in 30-second intervals over a period of 24 hours, starting three hours after the egg was laid. What starts as a trembling ball of cells bursts into a fully developed fly larva. The video, while fascinating on its own, may help reveal cell lineages, cell differentiation and whole-embryo morphogenesis. The video beat out more than 2500 entries for a prize of Olympus equipment worth $5000 – and serious bragging rights.

The cerebellum of a rat brain
The cerebellum of a rat brain.
The photo won second prize. Courtesy of Deerinck/Olympus Bioscapes.


The annual competition honors images and movies of life sciences subjects – human, plant and animal – as captured by light microscopy. The 2014 winning entries reflect the latest advances in neuroscience and developmental biology. Judging is based on the science depicted in the images, their beauty or impact, and the technical expertise involved in capturing them. Besides the top 10 awards, 62 honorable mentions and one technical merit award were distributed this year. Nine movies were among the winners.

Second prize was given to Dr. Thomas Deerinck of the University of California, San Diego’s National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research. He used multiphoton photography at 300× to capture the image of a rat brain’s cerebellum. Third prize was awarded to Dr. Igor Siwanowicz of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for his confocal microscopy image of barnacle appendages at 100×. The limbs sweep plankton and other food into the barnacle’s shell for consumption.

Appendages that sweep plankton and other food into a barnacle’s shell
Appendages that sweep plankton and other food into a barnacle’s shell. The photo won third prize. Courtesy of Siwanowicz/Olympus BioScapes.


“For 11 years, Olympus has sponsored this competition to shed light on the importance of research and draw attention to the amazing intersection of science and art,” said Hidenao Tsuchiya, chairman of Olympus Scientific Solutions Americas. “Olympus BioScapes movies and images have spurred public interest in and support of microscopy, drawn attention to the vital work that goes on in laboratories worldwide, and inspired young people to seek careers in science.”


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