News Release

Golden eggs, mental health stories, tiny robot printers

2019 Research as Art award winners announced

Grant and Award Announcement

Swansea University

Sustainabot -- Tiny Robot Printers: Research as Art award

image: <p>Sustainabot: Exploring the Use of Everyday Foodstuffs as Output and Input for and with Emergent Users <p>Mainstream digital interactions are spread over a plethora of devices and form-factors, from mobiles to laptops; printouts to large screens. <p>For emergent users, however, such abundance of choice is rarely accessible or affordable. In particular, viewing mobile content on a larger screen, or printing out copies, is often not available. <p>Proposed and developed by and with emergent users through a series of co-creation workshops (seen above) our work has been investigating the use of small robot "printers" that use everyday materials (such as salt or dust) to print shapes and patterns from mobile phones onto flat surfaces. <p>These materials have the advantage of being affordable and sustainable, both through appropriation and reuse and their relatively environmentally friendly nature compared with, say, disposable inkjet cartridges. view more 

Credit: Simon Robinson/Swansea University

Sixteen stunning images, and the fascinating stories behind them - such as the beautiful golden egg of a tiger moth, and tiny robot printers that use salt or dust instead of ink -- have today been revealed as the winners of the 2019 Research as Art awards.

While most entries were from Swansea University researchers, this year's competition saw more submissions from other universities, including institutions in France, USA, Bulgaria, Finland, South Africa and Singapore.

The overall winner is "Living with Vernon", which captures research aimed at unearthing the stories of eight people who were committed to a private mental hospital in Briton Ferry in south Wales, called Vernon House, between 1850 and 1880.

The submission is a drawn image representing people from the period, superimposed onto a map of the area, with an accompanying story. It was created by Katherine Murray of the College of Arts and Humanities.

Research as Art is open to researchers from all subjects, with an emphasis on revealing hidden research stories, as well as composing a striking image.

It offers an outlet for researchers' creativity, revealing the hidden stories and attempts to humanise science and research. The project also celebrates the diversity, beauty, and impact of research at Swansea University - a top 30 research university.

82 entries were received from researchers across all Colleges of Swansea University and from other institutions, with titles such as:

  • Psychedelic semiconductors
  • The thirst of a vampyre
  • Beauty is more than skin deep

A distinguished judging panel of senior figures from the Royal Institution, Nature, Research Fortnight magazine and Digital Science selected a total of sixteen winners. Along with the overall winner, there were seven other awards and eight runners-up.

Overall winner Katherine Murray described the research behind her entry:

"During the 1800s every county had to have a lunatic asylum, Glamorgan included, but the county was too poor to build one, so they 'rented' space from the private asylum in Briton Ferry, Vernon House.

My research is centred around eight private patients that were committed by their families between 1850 and 1880. They were ordinary middle-class people who suffered different mental illnesses. My research will bring to life both the house and people, their lost voices and their fate. At the moment they are a few historical documents; faceless. I hope to not only bring them to life but also inform about early care for the mentally ill."

Competition founder and director Professor Richard Johnston, professor in materials science and engineering at Swansea University, said:

"Research as Art is an opportunity for researchers to reveal hidden aspects of their research to audiences they wouldn't normally engage with. This may uncover their personal story, their humanity, their inspiration, and emotion.

It can also be a way of presenting their research process, and what it means to be a researcher; fostering dialogue, and dissolving barriers between universities and the wider world."


Pictures and accompanying material:

  • All 16 winning entries - pictures and accompanying text - are available ahead of 12 July via this link.
  • All material is under embargo until 00.01 on Friday 12 July 2019
  • Pictures and text may be used - with credit to Swansea University, and to individual entrant where applicable
  • JPEGs available on request

Interview opportunities:

  • The winning entries will be exhibited at a reception at Swansea University from 11.30 to 1.30 pm on Friday 12 July. Media organisations are invited to attend. There will be opportunities to interview winners with their entries. Please confirm attendance in advance.
  • Interviews in advance of this may be requested, both with winners and with competition founder Professor Richard Johnston, a British Science Association Media Fellow

Notes for editors:

Judging panel:

  • Dan Cressey, Deputy Editor, Research Fortnight and Research Europe
  • Martin Davies, Public Programme Manager, the Royal Institution
  • Flora Graham - Senior Editor, Nature Briefing
  • Dr Suze Kundu, Head of Public Engagement, Digital Science

When reporting this story, please use Swansea University hyperlinks.

Swansea University is a world-class, research-led, dual campus university. The University was established in 1920 and was the first campus university in the UK. It currently offers around 350 undergraduate courses and 350 postgraduate courses to circa 20,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students.

The University's 46-acre Singleton Park Campus is located in beautiful parkland with views across Swansea Bay. The University's 65-acre science and innovation Bay Campus, which opened in September 2015, is located a few miles away on the eastern approach to the city. It has the distinction of having direct access to a beach and its own seafront promenade. Both campuses are close to the Gower Peninsula, the UK's first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Swansea was named 'Welsh University of the Year' in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017. The University is in the top 300 best universities in the world, ranked in the 251-300 group in The Times Higher Education World University rankings 2018.

The results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 showed the University has achieved its ambition to be a top 30 research University, soaring up the league table to 26th in the UK, with the 'biggest leap among research-intensive institutions' (Times Higher Education, December 2014) in the UK.

The University has ambitious expansion plans as it moves towards its centenary in 2020, as it continues to extend its global reach and realising its domestic and international ambitions.

Swansea University is a registered charity. No.1138342. Visit

Media contacts:

Kevin Sullivan, Swansea University Public Relations Office
01792 513 245

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