The beauty of Queen's research – photo essay

The Art of Research

The beauty of Queen's research – photo essay

With a focus on the UN SDGs and advancing social impact, the annual Queen’s Art of Research photo contest highlights six winning entries.

April 13, 2023


From under the stars to on top of the world, the annual Art of Research photo contest brings to life the unseen moments of the research process. Now in its 7th year, the contest has captured the behind the scenes of the everyday research experience at Queen’s and the roles that faculty, staff, students, and alumni play in advancing groundbreaking work.

The 2023 contest continued to place a spotlight on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the importance of our social impact mission guided by the Queen’s Strategy. A new prize category this year asked the Queen's community to capture their research in motion. In videos of 30 seconds or less, researchers captured the beauty of their research in action from microscopic views to wide aerial expanses.

In total, six category prizes were awarded to researchers across disciplines. Discover the winners below, and to view more contest winners and top submissions from previous years, explore the Art of Research Photo Gallery.

2023 Art of Research Adjudication Committee

  • Nancy Ross, Vice-Principal (Research)
  • Christopher Deluca, Associate Dean, School of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs
  • Daniel McNeil, Queen's National Scholar in Black Studies, Department of Gender Studies
  • Ruth Dunley, Associate Director, Editorial Strategy, Office of Advancement
  • Allen Tian, PhD Student, Biology
  • Jake Harris, Undergraduate Student, Global Development Studies and Media Studies
  • Lian Willetts, Assistant Professor, Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of Calgary
  • Michelle Paradis, Communications Advisor, Inter-Agency Communications (TIPS), Government of Canada

Category: Research in Motion

Frozen in Time: Unveiling the Mysteries of Turner Glacier through Glaciological Research in Akshayuk Pass

Researcher: Wai Yin Cheung – PhD Student, Geography and Planning

Location: Turner Glacier, Akshayuk Pass

Glaciological research on Turner Glacier in Akshayuk Pass involves studying the physical properties and behavior of the glacier, as well as the surrounding environment, to better understand the dynamics of this glacial system.

This includes measuring yearly snowfall, melt, and ice thinning to understand ice volume change and sea level contributions over the past 50+ years. By collecting and analyzing data over time, Queen's ICELab glaciologists can identify patterns and changes in glacial behavior, which can inform our understanding of climate change and its impact on northern environments.

The research on Turner Glacier is part of a larger effort to study glacial systems around the world and develop strategies for mitigating the effects of climate change.

[Art of Research Winner: Corneal Fingerprint by Cassandra Brand]

Category: Good Health and Wellbeing

Corneal Fingerprint

Researcher: Cassandra Brand – Graduate Student, Translational Medicine

Location: Botterell Hall, Queen's University

The cornea is one of the most densely innervated tissues in the human body.

The high presence of sensory nerve endings makes the cornea extremely sensitive to pain and changes at the eye’s surface. This is particularly important in regulating tear production, a function which is impaired in dry eye disease.

By analyzing changes in nerve patterns and ion channel expression, we aim to further clarify the role of corneal nerves in spontaneous pain and tear production in dry eye disease.

This image shows the structural βIII-tubulin component of mouse corneal nerves at their unique convergence point.

[Art of Research Winner: Lithium Below, Stars Above by Dr. Christopher Spencer]

Category: Climate Action

Lithium Below, Stars Above

Researcher: Dr. Christopher Spencer – Faculty, Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering

Location: Western Australia

Lithium is an element that is key to our energy transition away from fossil fuels and plays an important role in the battery technologies for space exploration.

This photo was taken during an expedition to Western Australia exploring for lithium deposits that have the potential to reshape the global economy and resolve the global climate crisis.

[Art of Research Winner: Crystallization Pattern by Rachel Korchinsky]

Category: Innovation for Global Impact

Crystallization Pattern of a Common Salt Mixture

Researcher: Rachel Korchinsky – Graduate Student, Chemistry

Location: Electron Microscopy Facility, Queen's University

Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are rechargeable energy carriers that power electronic devices such as phones, cars, and hybrid/electric vehicles. The demand for lithium used to manufacture LIBs is expected to grow 30-fold by 2040. Industry primarily extracts lithium from rock ore and brine; however, the methods used are time-intensive and costly. Therefore, we are investigating alternative extraction methods that would reduce the energy consumption, waste production, and time intensity. The image, obtained by microscopy, is of salts that crystallized after evaporation of a lithium-containing brine.

[Art of Research Winner: Inuit Nunangat by micky renders]

Category: Partnerships for Inclusivity

Inuit Nunangat: Where Two Worlds Collide (From the Art and Waste in Pannituuq [Pangnirtung] Project)

Researcher: micky renders – PhD Student, School of Environmental Studies

Location: Pannituuq (Pangnirtung), Nunavut

Inuit Nunangat is a site where differing epistemologies and cosmologies collide. The Arctic waste crisis stems from a culture of wasting that is capitalist and not Inuit. 

With the delicate Arctic ecosystem degrading due to climate change, escalating resource extraction, the opening of the Northwest Passage, and the expansion of NORAD, unprecedented volumes of waste and contaminants are causing unknowable changes in life, land, sea, and ice. At the intersection of art, politics and activism, the Art and Wastes in Pangnirtung Project challenges assumptions about Inuit and exposes the pervasive nature of settler colonization as the root cause of wastes.

[Art of Research Winner: Returning the Gaze by Siobhan Speiran]

Category: Creative and Sustainable Communities

Returning the Gaze

Researcher: Siobhan Speiran – PhD Student, School of Environmental Studies

Location: Proyecto Asis, Costa Rica

This was taken by Rubén Vargas at the wildlife sanctuary Proyecto Asis in Costa Rica, who captures the most beautiful images of the resident animals. I am standing in front of the capuchin enclosure observing the behaviours of Lulo, Lucy, Soplita, Pablita, and Cappuccino, while guided tours are taking place nearby. It is illegal to own wild animals in Costa Rica; these capuchins have been rescued from their past lives as companion animals or entertainers. While unable to be reintroduced to the wild, they receive life-long care and advocacy in the sanctuary community.

My research looks at the intersections of animal welfare and conservation in Costa Rican sanctuaries, which are popular sites of sustainable, captive wildlife tourism. Here, the monkey returns my gaze in this photo, blurring the distinction between researcher and subject; I study him while he studies me.

Learn more about this year’s winners and explore past winners and top submissions on the Research@Queen’s website.

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