The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Chemical Engineering Students Win First Prize in Science as Art Competition

Janus particles stylized to look like a jellyfish underwater

Jellyfish Janus Particles

At the Materials Research Society (MRS) Meeting in early December, juniors Nicholas Sbalbi and Kyle Schoenberg of the Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department collaborated with doctoral student Heather Hamilton of the Polymer Science and Engineering (PSE) Department to win a first-place prize in the annual Science as Art competition. Their winning entry was a scanning electron microscope (SEM) micrograph titled “Jellyfish Janus Particles.”

The purpose of the Science as Art competition is to show the aesthetic beauty of scientific images.

“Nicholas Sbalbi works in Professor Laura Bradley’s lab in PSE, where he is leading a project to develop and understand these jellyfish Janus particles,” explained ChE Associate Professor Sarah Perry, who entered the artwork in the Science as Art competition on behalf of the three students. “The SEM micrograph was taken by Heather Hamilton, a Ph.D. student in Professor Bradley’s lab. The collaboration then extended to include Kyle Schoenberg, who did the false coloring on the image.”

The winning entry was an SEM image of a 1.5-micron-diameter polystyrene-poly (acrylic acid) Janus particle. The underwater effect was added in Photoshop, preserving the morphology and shape of the particle.

Perry has supported students in previous Science as Art competitions as well. In both the 2017 and 2019 MRS Spring Meetings in Phoenix, Arizona, Perry and two of her undergraduate students submitted scientifically related artwork that was selected for the finals of the Science as Art competition.

Perry’s participating students in 2017 and 2019 were ChE undergraduate Savannah Szemethy and Mathematics student Matthew Gagnon. Szemethy and Gagnon’s MRS submission in 2017, titled Bloom, was a micrograph of DNA/lipid films that was recolored into an image of blooming flowers. The submission in 2019, titled Starry Beach, was an SEM micrograph of DNA/lipid films that was recolored to show sand, water, and starfish. (January 2021)