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Science As Art

A Colorful Showcase

Visual representations of science and technology provide a valuable connection between scientists, artists, and the general public. This annual event showcases how beautiful and unique everyday things truly are when we take a new perspective.

Sometimes, science and art meet in the middle.

Orange and purple art piece

SINCE ITS INCEPTION IN 2006, “Science as Art” has challenged those at Clemson University as well as South Carolina high school students to share the powerful and inspiring visual images produced in laboratories, workspaces, and learning environments. The resulting exhibits have drawn the attention of scientists, artists, members of the community, and professional organizations.

Clemson University researchers, students, and employees and South Carolina K-12 students are invited to create artwork based on their work in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. By describing STEM concepts, research, and impact with simple terms and visually captivating images, Science as Art aims to attract a broad audience of all ages and encourage interest in these fields.

Science As Art: A Visualization Challenge

  • Guidelines

    Science as Art is an outreach event to non-scientists, potential scientists, and the science-curious. Through the visual arts, we hope to draw interest to the STEM fields through visually captivating artwork. Entries should be accompanied by a short descriptive text explaining the science behind the art in terms of a non-scientific audience.

    Entries will be judged by a team of local artists and scientists, who consider both the art and the text description. The criteria for judging include:

    • Visual Impact
    • Effective Communication
    • Innovation
  • Preparing for Submission

    Entrants must ensure that interactive media is Windows 7 compatible and is packaged so as to be viewed directly from the medium it is saved to, without special provisions, controllers, scripts, installations, or downloads. No proprietary programs can be used. Entrants must be ready to provide entries in a different medium or format if requested for judging or promotional purposes. Entries not submitted in the formats outlined above will be disqualified. All submission materials must be in English. Text descriptions should be no longer than 100 words total.

    Entry Formats

    • Photographs/Pictures—Film or digital photographs and photomicrographs, as well as images obtained from electron microscopes, STMs, AFMs, telescopes, sensors, and similar instruments.
    • Illustrations/Drawings/Paintings—Traditional or computer-assisted illustrations and drawings produced to conceptualize the unseen or recreate an object, process, or phenomenon (technique). Illustrations and drawings rely primarily on the created image to convey meaning. Illustrations do not have text.
    • Informational/Explanatory Graphics—Computer-assisted illustrations or graphics produced to instruct/interpret highly technical information into art that teaches. An informational graphic is more explanatory by nature and relies heavily on data and often text to convey a message. An informational graphic may incorporate a photographic image or an illustration into the overall presentation to convey the intended message. Typically incorporates text as an integral part of the illustration or graphic.
    • Three-Dimensional—Sculpture, origami, or other non-2D formats with scientific, mathematical, or technical relevance.
    • Interactive Media—Multimedia designed for interaction. Entry must be able to be manipulated by the judges. The DVD selection menu does not make it interactive media (NOT a movie demonstrating interactive media). This differs from non-interactive media because it is self-guided.
    • Non-Interactive Media—Multimedia not designed for interaction. Do not exceed 5 minutes total running time.
    • Other—We are always open to new formats, for example, poetry or a combination of media formats. Propose your own new category!

Thank you to everyone who voted in this year's event. The first prize went to Nicole Martinez. Second place winners are Chase Gabbard & Joshua Bostwick. Third place goes to Ethan Kung. Nicole Martinez also won the People's Choice Award. Congratulations!

Submitted Artwork

Aurora borealis
The Northern Lights

Physics and Astronomy

Image Description

Aurora borealis is the manifestation of the particles coming from the sun, precipitating above 80-km altitude (science concept). With this particle precipitation, a significant amount of energy is deposited in the Earth's atmosphere. This energy travels towards the lower latitude and alters atmospheric electric currents, which interferes with GPS, wireless communication, etc. The images were taken in Alaska during a wintertime rocket launching campaign in January 2018. We measured the winds between 80 and 160 km to understand the aurora effects in the neutral flow. The orange boxes shelter the cameras from the extremely cold temperatures.

Animals living around Chernobyl
The Beauty of Chernobyl

Environmental Engineering and Earth Science

Image Description

In 1986, a nuclear power plant exploded in present-day Ukraine, killing 54 people. Chernobyl is considered the most catastrophic event in history. Now, 36 years later, a radioecological study shows that deer, elk, and wolf populations in the zone with the greatest radiation is equal to that outside this area, if not higher. One interpretation might be that “normal” human activities are more impactful to ecosystems than the worst peacetime nuclear disaster in history, in the absence of humans. This graphical collection portrays a now-thriving ecosystem in one of the deadliest locations in the world. How ironically beautiful!

Crystalline Material in warm colors
Colors Revealed


Image Description

From red crystals to orange crystalline material to yellow particles, it is evident that size and color have a relationship. The accurate color is revealed with a smaller size. This is due to the particles absorbing and emitting light differently than in the single crystal form. A snapshot of the process of crushing single-crystal, copper-incorporated lithium vanadate into powder was captured using an ordinary 13MP cell phone camera. Would the presence of copper have been identified if we had not known the color of the crystal? No, it would have been passed on as just a lithium vanadate crystal (which is colorless).

Light interaction throught uranium glass sherbert dish

Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences

Image Description

This entry shows various interactions of light. The four-panel collage, after Andy Warhol, is of photographs taken vertically of a uranium glass sherbet dish. Light refracts through the dish, and the panels progress from visible, visible+UV, and UV light. In the UV panels, a bright green glow emanates from the dish because uranium fluoresces under UV light. Although uranium is radioactive, this fluorescence has to do with its chemistry rather than its radioactivity, and is commonly used to identify this type of vintage glass! The final panel shows UV-sensitive paper, without the dish, exposed as in the previous panel.

Double helical metal-organic framework
Electrically Conductive Double-Helical Metal-Organic Framework Featuring Butterfly-Shaped Ligands


Image Description

This entry shows various interactions of light. The four-panel collage, after Andy Warhol, is of photographs taken vertically of a uranium glass sherbet dish. Light refracts through the dish, and the panels progress from visible, visible+UV, and UV light. In the UV panels, a bright green glow emanates from the dish because uranium fluoresces under UV light. Although uranium is radioactive, this fluorescence has to do with its chemistry rather than its radioactivity, and is commonly used to identify this type of vintage glass! The final panel shows UV-sensitive paper, without the dish, exposed as in the previous panel.

Fluid droplet down fiber
Nature’s Necklace: Putting Pattern Formation to Purpose

Mechanical Engineering

Image Description

A thin film of fluid flowing down a vertical fiber is subject to a number of shape-change instabilities that define the bead-on-fiber morphology. The resulting high-curvature fluid interface is desirable for numerous heat and mass transfer processes, which address the global water crisis. These high-surface, area-to-volume-ratio shapes show great promise in a new high-efficiency, low-power desalination process that can supply clean water for resource-constrained communities around the globe. The captivating pattern pictured emerged due to capillary instability and illustrates just one of the many ways Clemson University is utilizing fundamental fluid dynamics research to address some of the world’s grandest challenges.

Dandelion, chapstick, and a reed through microscope

Visual Arts

Image Description

This image depicts viewing found objects through a microscope. The objects from left to right are a dandelion, ChapStick, and a reed. This piece shows that anyone can learn about the science behind the world around them, even the smallest subjects, with the proper tools from their educators.

Silver nanoparticles
Nonoraspberries in the Wild


Image Description

Chemical reactions that result in physical changes are part of our everyday life. Here we present the sulfidation of silver nanoparticles (Ag NPs) to obtain silver sulfide nanoparticles (Ag2S NPs). The full conversion from Ag NPs to Ag2S NPs results in a raspberry-like structure of the nanoparticle. This morphology change can be best monitored via AFM. The tunability of the size of the nanoparticles has a direct impact on the wavelengths of light they can absorb, making them candidates for photovoltaic devices.

Fish scales
Shattered Illusions

Biochemistry and Genetics

Image Description

This piece showcases snake ribs alongside fish scales. This image focuses on elements of developmental biology and evolution. Notice that each fish scale looks like unique fingerprints and how snakes have elongated rib expression along their body. Fish and reptiles aren't such distant relatives. It's amazing to imagine what their relationship can teach us about how humans evolved.

Rock Dove feather under microscope
Parts of a Feather Flock Together

Visual Computing

Image Description

These images taken with a scanning electron microscope reveal the detailed components of a feather (the alula on the wing) from a Rock Dove (common pigeon). The top left image shows the feather's tip with displaced barbs at the edge, the top right is a closer view on the component hierarchy (central shaft, branching barbs, tiny barbules), and the bottom reveals cut barbs to show their porous cross-sections and how the barbules with hooklets overlay each other. This hierarchical structure allows for many functions of feathers such as uniquely colored appearances which we're interested in for computer graphics.

Stained African Cichlid
Scales and Tails

Genetics and Biochemistry

Image Description

My submission is of a stained African Cichlid. I used two stains, Alizarin Red and Alcian blue. This image is positioned under the microscope to create an abstract look. This image illustrates that when stained, cartilage of an animal will turn blue/purple, and the bones will turn red/pink. The tails and scales in this image turn a red color because they're formed from mineralized calcium, similar to bone. Fish have bones in their tail to keep the tail rigid so they can swim. The blue is the cartilage that connects these tail bones.

Infant in graphic-novel style image
Neural Training

Mechanical Engineering

Image Description

This realistic graphic-novel style blended image is generated via a machine learning neural style transfer method applied to a real photograph. There are many similarities between how an artificial neural network and how a brand new infant’s brain is trained. This artificial-intelligence-generated picture of an infant being potty trained attempts to express this connection. Continued advances in artificial intelligence can begin to blur the distinction between human and machine, like how this piece blurs the distinction between photograph and drawing.

Fluorescent polystyrene nanoparticles
The Green Planet of Fluorescent Nano-particles

Electrical Engineering

Image Description

Pictured here is a clump of thousands of fluorescent polystyrene nanoparticles. The picture was taken using a fluorescence microscope. These particles with known physical and electrical properties are used as a test subject in microfluidic sensing. These help verify the functionality of my nanoparticle sensor. The end goal of the sensor is to detect nanosized organisms.

College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences
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