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Enter your amazing science visuals in the 2023 Cool Science Image Contest

May 8, 2023 By Chris Barncard
Person walking toward observatory over snow, under the Southern Lights.

In this 2021 Cool Science Image Contest winning photo, a “winterover” — one of the two staff members who stay through the minus-100-degree Fahrenheit nights of Antarctica’s coldest months — hikes underneath the stars and aurora to the South Pole home of IceCube, a UW–Madison-led neutrino telescope. Yuya Makino

Seeing is discovering. And seeing how students, staff and faculty at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are constantly discovering — for themselves and the world — they also tend to be filling camera viewfinders and microscope eyepieces with the objects of their interest.

To celebrate the exploratory and artistic value of those images, the 13th annual Cool Science Image Contest is soliciting the best visuals from members of the UW–Madison community.

A light tan gecko licks its eyeball

A crested gecko keeps its clear, immovable eyelids clean and moist with a swipe of the tongue in this 2020 winner by postdoc Nisha Iyer. Nisha Iyer

More than 1,000 pictures and videos — depicting animals, insects, plants, cells, stars, weather, nanoscale structures and more — vied for top prizes in the first 12 years of the contest, which is made possible with the sponsorship from Promega Corp. Any member of the UW–Madison community may enter any visual media produced by during the course of research, scholarship or self-guided discovery.

Previous winners include distinguished scientists who have gone on to win prestigious international image contests, but every year’s crop of honorees includes relative novices whose curiosity led them to capture something amazing.

Small fuzzy dots form a bacteria colony suspended in amber-colored agar.

Bacteria from a Costa Rican parasitoid wasp grows on a culture plate. The bacteria was a prospect in UW–Madison researchers’ search for new antimicrobial compounds. Caitlin Carlson

Submissions are featured on university websites and other communications as well as in exhibits on and off campus. Winning images and two winning videos are showcased in a fall exhibit at the Mandelbaum and Albert Family Vision Gallery of the McPherson Eye Research Institute, and for a year at Promega’s Fitchburg headquarters.

To enter up to three of your cool science images or videos — and to find more information about the competition — visit the contest website for guidelines, submission requirements and a link to the entry form. The submission deadline is June 15.

Winners, chosen by a panel of judges with experience in scientific imagery and visual art and storytelling, will be announced this summer. Each winning entry receives prizes including a large-format print of the winning submission and will, with other entries, be displayed around campus during science events throughout the year.