Celebrating the Beauty of Research

Jefferson’s first enterprise-wide research-art contest reveals the beauty of rarely seen parts of the natural world and opens windows to the soul.

Many avenues of research impress the careful observer with their aesthetic quality. Jefferson’s inaugural Research as Art Competition celebrates all researchers who have an eye for the beauty in their work. From capturing cellular landscapes to exploring expressions of grief and growth through art-therapy practice, this year’s submissions cover a wide swath of research interests. Two judges, Jefferson cardiologist and fine artist, Nazanin Moghbeli, MD, and science writer and editor, Alison McCook, independently evaluated all submissions based on visual impact, meaning or significance, and originality.

On Jan. 26, the winners of the competition were announced at a reception with over 100 attendees.

Guests took in the art and studied the accompanying descriptions, which added a deeper meaning to the pieces. Some researchers submitted images that captured the subject of their scientific inquiry, like the spider-like neurons of a fly’s brain by Alison DePew or multi-colored striated muscle cells by Elham Javed, PhD. Other researchers offered images that were central to their research question. For example Rosie Frasso, PhD, submitted photographs from a photo-elicitation project where the images became prompts to explore a mother’s experience of having a baby during COVID-19. Other art work was created to process clinical interactions or reflect on personal journeys in art therapy. The work spanned research and scholarship across the university and inspired many attendees to reflect on their own work and what they might submit in next year’s competition.

“An event like this reminds researchers how beautiful their own work can be,” says first prize winner and neuroscientist Shashirekha Shamamandri Markandaiah. Many biologists are trained to take an analytical approach to their observations, and yet there is an unmistakable visual appeal in their work that cuts across fields of inquiry and discipline.

You can explore a gallery of images from the event below. You can also view the winners, a selection of additional submissions, and download a PDF of all of the 2022 submissions on the Research Art website.

[Image Credit:  ©Thomas Jefferson University Photography Services]

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