Art in STEM Research Event Winners

The Art in STEM Research Event was hosted on Thursday, February 12, 2015 from 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM in the Dirac Science Library. 

Science, is often perceived as too perplexing and at times intimidating and consequently poses a complexity for science advocacy. In partnership with GEOSET Studios, Student Government Association (SGA), Congress of Graduate Students (COGS), and the Dirac Science Library, the FSU graduate student organization, Graduate Women in Science (GWIS), utilized funds from the American Society of Cell Biology’s Community for Postdocs and Students (ASCB COMPASS) Outreach Grant to attract public attention, not with the technicalities of scientific research, but with its beauty.

What is Art in STEM Research?

Art in STEM Research, is a science art exhibit showcasing images taken by FSU students conducting research in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Our exhibit aims to educate the public about STEM research at FSU and its broader impact to society, while inspiring our audience with the artistic beauty of scientific research. Science changes our view of the world and how we live. Innovations uncovered through scientific curiosity and exploration improve our existence and ensure our future. 

The winners of the event

Best Statement of Broader Scientific Impact & Visual Impression

First Place: Liam M. Longo and Connie Tenorio


Department: Biomedical Sciences (Graduate Student)
Research Field: Biophysics, Protein Design, Origin of Life
How image was captured: X-ray Crystallography 

Research Impact & Significance: "This image features the secondary structure of an engineered protein named PV2. It was obtained using X-ray crystallography, a technique used to visualize the structure of biopolymers, such as proteins. This particular protein adopts a beta-trefoil fold, which is characterized by a symmetric structure.  In the center of PV2 is another symmetric molecule, Tris, which is used to regulate pH during crystallization conditions.  Importantly, PV2 is comprised predominately of molecular building blocks that were present on the early Earth, before the emergence of life.  These molecular building blocks, called amino acids, can be generated by lightning, in hydrothermal vents, or delivered by meteorites.  The fact that we were able to create a beta-trefoil using only the “old” amino acids, suggests that the chemical information on the early earth—even before the advent of life itself—was sufficient to create useful molecular tools that are still used by living organisms."


Second Place: Omotola Ogunsolu

Polymer Shavings

Department: Materials Science and Engineering Program (Graduate Student)
Research Field: Dye Sensitized Solar Cells
How image was captured: Digital Photography

Research Impact & Significance: "Our lab synthesizes organic materials, most of which are used in dye sensitized solar cells (DSSC), a promising low cost alternative to current day solar cell technologies. Our main objective is to improve DSSC’s efficiency in converting solar energy into electricity. This image is of a scintillation sphere (the half-sphere) and its polymer shavings. When placed under ultraviolet light they emit a blue light. This scintillation sphere is made of two polymers, polystyrene and polyvinyltoluene. Polystyrene and polyvinyltoluene are currently used as gamma ray detectors, but may be useful in the construction of DSSCs. Our research goal is to improve their efficiency in converting gamma-rays to visible light by further modifying these polymers. For example, doping polystyrene and polyvinyltoluene with molecules synthesized in our lab, we have effectively increased their sensitivity to gamma rays."


People's Choice: Elias Nakouzi

Flowers from Sand and Salt

Department: Chemistry and Biochemistry (Graduate Student)
Research Field: Physical Chemsitry
How image was captured: Optical Microscopy (Field of View: 0.45x0.60mm)

Research Impact & Significance: "Surprisingly, simple crystallization reactions can assemble "biomorphs" with life-like shapes. The flowers and leaves shown here are purely inorganic structures formed by the co-precipitation of silica and barium carbonate. However, it is not just about the aesthetics; these crystal aggregates are giving profound insights into biomimetic crystallization pathways. Natural organisms can produce highly functional structures such as bones and teeth using very ordinary raw materials. The key for this success is employing sophisticated methods that easily out-compete standard, synthetic crystallization. Clearly, there is great merit in learning these techniques from nature! We are developing bio-inspired in vitro systems that will lead to a more fundamental understanding of non-classical crystallization and promise to produce biomimetic materials with enhanced architectures and properties."


Honorable Mention: Jessica A. Cusick


Department: Biological Sciences (Graduate Student)
Research Field: Behavioral Ecology
How image was captured: Digital Photography

Research Impact & Significance: "This is an image of my study species, Brown-headed nuthatch, which are cooperative breeders. Young males forgo their own reproductive effort to assist breeding pairs raise their offspring. Cooperative groups are more likely to have successful nests than non-cooperative nests. Despite these important reproductive benefits, not all breeding groups in this population are cooperative. Therefore, identifying the genetic, social, and ecological factors that lead to cooperative group formation is critical to understanding why some groups are cooperative and others remain non-cooperative and the evolution of cooperative behavior. My research investigates how cooperative groups form and the costs and benefits of these cooperative groups across a variety of behavioral contexts, including aggression and reproduction. Cooperation has long been a model for understanding the costs and benefits of social groups and group living. To understand behavioral interactions among individuals and groups provides the framework for understanding population level changes in behavior and in life history."


Honorable Mention: Jessica S. Martinez

Follow the Leader

Department: Biological Sciences (Graduate Student)
Research Field: Interdisciplinary Research (Cell Biology & Polymer Chemistry)
How image was captured: Fluorescence Microscopy

Research Impact & Significance: "Cells can sense the stiffness of their microenvironment. The degree of stiffness can direct various biological processes including cell motility. Our research group has developed polyelectrolyte multilayers (PEMUs), biocompatible thin films, containing both steep and shallow gradients of stiffness. When cells are placed on these PEMUs they durotax, migrate in response to the underlying rigidity gradient. These PEMUs can direct cell migration, a behavior that is important during wound healing, development, and various biological processes. My research investigates how cell sheets (tissues) adhere and migrate along these gradient containing PEMUs. This image shows an epithelial cell sheet, a collective cell model system I use to better understand how stiffness can direct tissue migration, while discovering potential biomedical applications for our PEMUs." 


GEOSET Interviews with Participants in the Event:

FSU News Links:

About ASCB COMPASS & Outreach Grant

The American Society of Cell Biology (ASCB) is an inclusive international community of Biologist spanning across all areas of Cell Biology. Student members benefit from this vast network of scientist and are represented in the organization by the Committee for Postdocs and Students (COMPASS). COMPASS creates programs and resources for students and postdocs addressing  aspects of scientific  training and career  development.

Additionally, COMPASS  provides opportunities for students to initiate science advocacy and outreach events in their local community. An example of such an opportunity is the Outreach Grant awarded by ASCB COMPASS to student members. Graduate Student ASCB member and GWIS Vice President, Jessica S. Martinez, was awarded the ASCB  COMPASS Outreach Grant to host Art in STEM Research at FSU.

About Graduate Women in Science (GWIS)

GWIS, is an FSU graduate student organization, which strives to provide a support network for graduate students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs and  establishes a  mentoring base for undergraduates pursuing STEM careers.

Hosting academic, community, and social events our organization aims to provide opportunities for communication amongst graduate students. Our events strive to create a friendly and enriching environment for students to socialize, discuss their research, and share their graduate school experiences. Additionally, we strive to provide GWIS members with opportunities to interact with professional women in their fields both on campus and in the community at large, while engaging in Science advocacy.