Public Release: 

2012 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge winners announced

Winning entries will appear in the Feb. 1, 2013, issue of the journal Science

American Association for the Advancement of Science


IMAGE: This detail of a "wiring diagram " shows long-distance neural connections between major regions of the macaque brain. This visualization provides guidance for connecting multiple computer chips into a brain-like network.... view more

Credit: Illustration: Emmett McQuinn, Pallab Datta, Myron D. Flickner, William P. Risk, Dharmendra S. Modha/IBM Research - Almaden

A three-dimensional computer simulation of a beating heart is among the first-place winners of the 2012 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge, which is sponsored jointly by journal Science and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).

"Alya Red: A Computational Heart" is the title of the visual film project (see video at, which also won a People's Choice award in the video category. The film combines illustration, three-dimensional renderings, and live-action video to describe the basic electromechanical science of the heart in language that is easy for people to comprehend. "Understanding our organs -- and the heart in particular -- in deep detail is one of the challenges of modern medicine," said Fernando Cucchietti of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center. "The video presents the approach of our particular project...which aims at developing large scale numerical simulators of the heart."

Another powerful visual, "Connectivity of a Cognitive Computer Based on the Macaque Brain," shows colored neural wires that connect to major regions of a monkey's brain and inspires researchers of IBM Research - Almaden to develop a new generation of "neuro-synaptic" computer chips that connect multiple chips into a brainlike network. The detailed diagram won first-place in the illustration category and will be featured on the cover of the 1 February issue of the journal Science.

"These winners continue to amaze me every year with their remarkable talent and drive to engage the public," said Monica M. Bradford, executive editor of the journal Science, which is published by AAAS, the nonprofit international science society. "The visuals are not only novel and captivating, but they also draw you into the complex field of science in a simple and understandable way."

Shapes that are naturally formed in the sea urchin tooth are the subject of a striking abstract photograph, "Biomineral Single Crystals," which won first place as well as a People's Choice award. "The shapes in this image are naturally formed in the sea urchin tooth," explained Pupa Gilbert of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Color is added in Photoshop® to heighten the visual impact of the structure, and to emphasize how interconnected and intertwined the crystal forms are." A biomineral that is an arrangement of biologically formed crystals with an "organic" form, the sea urchin tooth's "calcite crystals fill space, harden the tooth, and toughen it enough for it to grind rock."

The international competition, currently in its tenth year, honors recipients who use visual media to promote understanding of scientific research. The criteria for judging this year's 215 entries from 18 countries included visual impact, effective communication, freshness and originality.

The competition received 3,155 public votes for the entries and the public selected their favorite image as People's Choice awards and shared their favorite entries via the social media sites Facebook and Twitter.

The annual challenge showcases spectacular photographs, illustrations, graphics, videos, and interactive games that engage viewers by conveying the complex substance of science through artwork. Some other highlights include:

Rotate an Owl's Neck: A first-place winning poster showcases an owl's unique cervical mobility by depicting how owls adapt to handle 270-degree neck rotations without cutting off blood supply to their head. "This poster represents the first comprehensive investigation clarifying the cervical arterial anatomy of the owl," said Fabian de Kok-Mercado of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "Although fragmentary information can be found in older literature, knowledge of the anatomy of the carotid and vertebral arteries of the owl prior to this study was quasi inexistent."

View Pharma Transport Routes: The People's Choice award for Posters and Graphics, "The Pharma Transport Town," shows a sketch of what happens to drugs after they are consumed and the abstract pathways that are used to transport pharmaceuticals within the context of the viewer's own environment, using the visual metaphor of a town.

Stretch Earth's Evolution in Deep Time: A poster illustrates processes and events, such as plate tectonics and mass extinctions, that dominated the first 85 percent of Earth's history and highlights the plants and animals, including dinosaurs, that existed in the remaining 15 percent of our history. "Our poster provides teachers and students with an expanded perspective about the evolution of our planet and emphasizes how geology and biology have influenced one another," said Mark Nielsen of The Educational Resources Group, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Astronaut 3 Media Group.

Observe Fluorescence of Coral Reefs: A video shows a live image of the natural fluorescence of coral symbiomes with the use of laser scanning confocal microscopy. "This approach is profoundly advancing our basic understanding of corals and their responses to environmental change," said Christine Farrar of the Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. "Coral reefs are one of the most vital ecosystems on Earth. They provide coastline protection, a habitat for biodiversity, and a setting for coastal fisheries and tourism. The interactions between coral, unicellular algae that live within their tissues, and small organisms on their surface, collectively known as the symbiome, result in the functional capacity that allows corals to create reefs. Coral symbiomes are however, vulnerable to pollution and climate change."

Discover Next-Gen Devices: An interactive game, entitled "UNTANGLED," allows users to compete and create compact next-generation electronic chip designs and circuit layouts on grids that are flexible and almost human-like in nature. "Our goal is to discover human strategies for circuit layout and opportunities for new chip designs that can be employed in future cell phones, medical devices and other electronics," said Gayatri Mehta of the University of North Texas. "These devices will be smaller, consume less power, and have longer battery life. This will affect all of us in areas from health, safety and security, to personal convenience and comfort. Our game can also be used as a tool to educate people and encourage them to participate in solving important engineering problems."

Other winning entries include the use of CT scanning to capture a photograph of a clam and the spiral shell of a whelk, high-resolution X-ray radiography of plant seeds in elegant detail combined with images taken by microscopy, an online game for students to create their own moon and experience the physics of colliding asteroids and dense materials, a digital journey that portrays the process of human fertilization, and a two-dimensional flash simulation game about Albert Einstein's theory of special relativity. A special news feature in this issue presents each of the winning entries.

The 1 February 2013 issue of Science will feature the winning entries, which will also be available to the public without registration at and the NSF's website at

The 2012 winning entries are included in five categories:


First Place & People's Choice:
Pupa U.P.A. Gilbert and Christopher E. Killian
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Biomineral Single Crystals

Honorable Mentions (2-way tie):
Kai-hung Fung
Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital (Hong Kong)
Self Defense

Viktor Sykora (First Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, Czech Republic) and Jan Jakubek
Institute of Experimental and Applied Physics, Czech Technical University in Prague, Czech Republic
X-ray micro-radiography and microscopy of seeds


First Place:
Emmett McQuinn, Theodore M. Wong, Pallab Datta, Myron D. Flickner, Raghavendra Singh, Steven K. Esser, Rathinakumar Appuswamy, William P. Risk, Dharmendra S. Modha
IBM Research - Almaden
Connectivity of a Cognitive Computer Based on the Macaque Brain

Honorable Mention and People's Choice:
Maxime Chamberland, David Fortin, Maxime Descoteaux
Sherbrooke Connectivity Imaging Lab
Cerebral Infiltration


First Place:
Fabian de Kok-Mercado, Michael Habib, Tim Phelps, Lydia Gregg and Philippe Gailloud
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Adaptations of the Owl's Cervical & Cephalic Arteries in Relation to Extreme Neck Rotation

Honorable Mention:
Eriko Clements, Mark Nielsen, Satoshi Amagai, Bill Pietsch, Davey Thomas and Andy Knoll
The Educational Resources Group, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Astronaut 3 Media Group
Earth Evolution: The Intersection of Geology and Biology

People's Choice:
Will Stahl-Timmins, Clare Redshaw, Mathew White, Michael Depledge and Lora Fleming
European Centre for Environmental and Human Health
The Pharma Transport Town: Understanding the Routes to Sustainable Pharmaceutical Use


Honorable Mentions (2-way tie):
Andy Hall
Velocity Raptor

Debbie Denise Reese, Robert E. Kosko, Charles A. Wood and Cassie Lightfritz: CyGaMEs Project Center for Educational Technologies, Wheeling Jesuit University; Barbara
G. Tabachnick: University of California, Northridge
CyGaMEs Selene II: A Lunar Construction GaME

People's Choice:
Gayatri Mehta
University of North Texas


First Place & People's Choice:
Guillermo Marin, Fernando Cucchietti, Mariano Vazquez and Carlos Tripiana
Barcelona Supercomputing Center
Alya Red: A Computational Heart

Honorable Mentions (3-way tie):
Thomas Brown
Nucleus Medical Media

Christine Farrar, Zac H. Forsman, Ruth D. Gates, Jo-Ann C. Leong and Robert J. Toonen
Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawai'i at Manoa
Observing the Coral Symbiome Using Laser Scanning Confocal Microscopy

Michael Rubinstein, Neal Wadhwa, Frédo Durand, William T. Freeman, Hao Yu Wu, John Guttag:
MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab; Eugene Shih: Quanta Research Cambridge
Revealing Invisible Changes In The World


Further information about the 2012 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge is available at Please contact Tarri Joyner at +1-703-292-7742 (phone) or (email).

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal, Science, Science Signaling, and Science Translational Medicine. AAAS was founded in 1848, and serves 261 affiliated societies and academies of science, reaching 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The nonprofit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy; international programs; science education; and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!,, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.

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