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And the Winner Is...

In January, we hosted our very first science art contest! We had three categories contestants could choose from based on their location: Davis/Sacramento, California, or out-of-state (honorable mention only). We received incredible submissions to all categories, and are excited to announce the winners!



Jayce Taylor won our local Davis/Sacramento category with her embroidery piece of a forgotten petri dish (we’ve all been there!).

Embroidery on felt of a forgotten petri dish
"Petri dish, forgotten in the back of the fridge". Inspired by my lab mates. (medium: embroidered thread on felt) - Jayce Taylor


What’s the science behind the image?

I'm a chemistry graduate student in the Atsumi lab here at UCD. Our research is in the field of metabolic engineering, with the primary goal of genetically engineering microbes to produce fuels, sugars, pharmaceuticals, and other chemicals from sustainable sources. An important tool in the field of metabolic engineering is antibiotics and antibiotic resistance. When genetically engineering a microbe, scientists will often introduce a gene for antibiotic resistance along with the main gene of interest. When grown on a petri dish containing the antibiotic, only microbes containing the antibiotic resistance and gene of interest will grow. This allows for us to easily select microbial colonies that have our gene of interest or gene edit! Unfortunately antibiotics don't stop fungal growth, so if plates become contaminated, fungi will start to grow and take over. This piece was inspired by a plate forgotten in the back of our lab fridge. Although the fungus was cute and fuzzy, it was too risky to keep around as a "pet" and was subsequently autoclaved.

How important is art in your science journey?

Growing up I always wanted to become either a scientist or an artist, and even though I ended up pursuing science as a career, I continue to work on art in my free time. People often think of science and art as opposite disciplines, but they have a lot in common. Failure is a big theme between the two, and both science and art have taught me how to fail and creatively overcome failure by trying different techniques or methods. I particularly enjoy art projects that I can use, such as ceramics, sewing, and various fiber arts.


Jenn Cossaboon won our California category with her illustration of whales and their barnacles.

Watercolor illustration of whales and their barnacles
Coronulidae are a family of acorn barnacles uniquely adapted to share their life cycles with whales. Whether they are friends or just free-loaders is still debated; their crusty shells could act as weapons/armor in mating battles or against predators (mutualism), create substantial drag (parasitism), or have no effect at all (commensalism). - Jenn Cossaboon


What’s the science behind the image?

About a month ago, I was admiring a photo of a right whale (I am a sucker for charismatic megafauna) and was completely floored to learn that the barnacles found on whales belong to species that have evolved to reproduce, develop, and survive only on whale skin! Whales are actually migrating biomes that host many clingy crustaceans including whale barnacles (which belong to their own subfamily, Coronulidae). Because they cannot leave, these barnacle tenants have synchronized their daily behavior, body structure, and entire life cycle to be compatible with their cetacean hosts. Each species has a unique appearance and preference for certain whale species, which I focused on for the illustration (and took a surprising amount of time to research!). If you're excited about these charismatic microfauna and want to learn more - I wrote a short article on whale barnacles for this week's Creature Feature blog hosted by the awesome UCD Animal Behavior grad students.

How important is art in your science journey?

Art has been a very important part of my science journey both for continuing to learn about/honor wildlife species and to decompress from the pressures of academic life. I took a marine science illustration and watercolor class at UC Santa Cruz during undergrad and it ended up being truly life changing for managing burnout. I am also a highly visual learner, so drawing out anatomy and physiology concepts has been instrumental to my animal medicine and research training - which I hope to continue incorporating scientific illustration into in the future!


Brandi A. Bundy won our out-of-state competition with her illustration of Jimsonweed with the molecule atropine superimposed on top of the flowers.

Jimsonweed, which has green leaves and purple/white flowers, with the molecule atropine superimposed.
Atropine is listed as a World Health Organization essential medicine and can be found in the Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium). Its pharmacological effects are due to muscarinic acetylcholine receptors binding and functioning as an antimuscarinic agent affecting the parasympathetic nervous system. - Brandi A. Bundy

What’s the science behind the image?

This globally recognized molecule shares a connection with a plethora of living organisms and this piece is a way to celebrate that. Datura is a member of the nightshade family which is notorious for being deadly. It is fun to superimpose a widely useful alkaloid on a plant commonly associated with death. As an undergraduate I had always been fascinated by alkaloids and toxins. I found that connecting my love for art and chemistry was the best way to satisfy this curiosity.

How is art important for you in your science journey?

Art is important because it has been a timeless medium of communication. There can often be a disconnect or apprehensiveness when it comes to science and I believe art is a great way to bridge the gap for a general audience. Science art is a way to show individuals that science is not something to be feared, hated, or avoided but embraced.  My hope is that viewers gain a new perspective of the world around them on a more intimate scale with a growing appreciation for science.

If you missed out on voting, check out all the submissions below.


Side view of a 3-day-old chicken embryo, stained for proteins in the developing neurons and central nervous system.
The image depicts the side view of a chicken embryo at 3 days of development. The colors are showing proteins that are expressed in developing neurons (blue/green) and the central nervous system and heart (pink). - Crystal Rogers and Camilo Echeverria


Confocal microscopy image of a root cross section
"Feeling the stress" - fluorescence microscopy of root cross section shows well-enforced cellular barriers at the endodermis and exodermis, as well as phenolic substances deposited in response to stress. - Shuxiao Zhang


Cross section of a chicken embryo stained for migrating neural crest cells and embryonic brain.
The image depicts a cross section of a developing chicken embryo. The cross section shows the early embryonic brain (pink and red) and migrating neural crest cells (blue/green and orange/red) that will make the face. We thought it was appropriate so close to Valentine's day because the brain looks like a heart! - Carly Adamson, Brigette Monroy, and Crystal Rogers


Confocal microscopy image of a retina stained for photoreceptors (green), progenitor cells (white) and retina ganglion cells (red).
It's not a watermelon, it's a retina! We label cells with different colors to create some fun combinations and help with our experiments. In the retina of this eye, we made photoreceptors green, progenitor cells white, and retina ganglion cells red. What color combination would you like to try out? - Elizabeth Fishman


Microscope image of grey mold entering a leaf.
Grey mold (Botrytis cinerea) creating a path in and out of a leaf. - Celine Caseys


Microscope image of cells moving on the surface of a petri dish.
In this picture, you're looking at spreading "footprints" of human white blood cells attacking a flat surface coated with antibodies, which tricks them into thinking it's a pathogen they need to eat. We use a special type of microscopy so the regions of contact between the cells and the surface are much darker than the surroundings. - Emmet Francis


Original poem on the left superimposed on an image of a fish on a rock underwater
The pace of life for Antarctic fish is incredibly slow because they must spend a huge amount of energy dealing with the consequences of living in such cold water. This poem aims to convey the message of energy conservation in the extremely cold Southern Ocean within a whimsical story. - Amanda Frazier and Rob Robbins Alt text


Microscope image of pollen being eaten by bacteria
Star Wars Episode I: The Pollen Menace: A long time ago (last week) in a galaxy right here at UC Davis, a PhD student gave some hungry flower-inhabiting bacteria a pinch of pollen. These bacteria eat the pollen by tricking it into germinating then breaking in to the pollen tubes (white hairlike lines) because they are softer than the pollen’s shell (yellow). - Shawn Christensen



Abstract image of bleached and healthy coral.
When corals are exposed to heat stress, they are known to bleach; they lose the microscopic algae in their tissues which provide them with their main source of energy (as well as their coloration) and thus become more susceptible to diseases or death. This digital scientific illustration shows the duality of healthy vs. bleached coral polyps, and a bleached vs. dead branching coral colony. - Adi Khen


Watercolor illustration of citrus.
Research in the Slupsky lab in the Nutrition Department has focused on Citrus Greening Disease. This disease impacts the phloem of citrus fruits, making them green in color and unpalatable - this is why you don't cross borders with citrus! - Britt Loofbourrow



Painting of Giardia and its lifecycle and management.
Title of this art work is “Let’s get a ride over the Giardia”. This piece shows the importance of Giardia, a human intestinal parasite, how the parasites can be transferred and how to control it. - Sareh Tavakol


Mild steel sculpture of DNA.
Mild steel sculpture of the DNA double helix. - Bryan Welm

Sydney Wyatt is a PhD student at the University of California in Davis. For more content from the UC Davis science communication group "Science Says", follow us on Twitter @SciSays