Celebrating the art of scientific discovery

There is nothing more rewarding after the days, or sometimes weeks or months, of collecting your tissue sample, optimizing your assay, and performing your staining protocol, than beholding the beauty of those cells when you look through the microscope lens. Whether it is the laminar structure of the cortex as you look for layer specific markers, finding your labeled cell in muscle tissue of a disease model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, or exploring the formation of the human pancreas in a 3D cell culture model, at its core it represents scientific art.

Here at Vector Laboratories, we’re proud to contribute to the generation of these results and to help share this beauty in our own virtual art gallery. Each year we celebrate your scientific success in our annual Microscopy Image Contest. This competition is your chance to show that your research not only moves the boundaries of knowledge forward, but it also looks darn good doing it. Submit your image and learn more about the contest details for the 2021 Vector Laboratories Microscopy Image Contest. While you’re pondering about the best image to pull from your collection, read on for some inspiration from our past winners Jose Ortiz, Courtney Young, Shuying Xu, Selvakumar Subbian and Nathan Martin.

As a self-described ‘visual’ person, Jose brings an artistic flair to his science, creating breath-taking images while advancing his work on the development of the pancreas and its possible regeneration in patients with diabetes. He loves that immunofluorescence allows him to see answers to his research questions right away and enjoys making sure that his data are beautiful to look at as well as scientifically sound. Jose credits his non-traditional background as a first-generation immigrant for his outside-the-box thinking, and we suspect that this creativity helped him nudge out the competition in last year’s Microscopy Image Contest with a cross-section of a 3-D human pancreatic colony, which he imaged using the Vector® TrueVIEW® Autofluorescence Quenching Kit and VECTASHIELD® Vibrance Antifade Mounting Medium. Learn more about José and see his winning image.

Courtney delights in looking at immunostained muscle fibers under the microscope, but her mind quickly goes to the scientific story, considering whether she’s identified a protein in a novel location or if two colors have appeared where normally there is only one. That’s Courtney: focused and driven to refine her promising gene therapy for muscular dystrophy even as she savors a beautiful image. Her passion, initially born of her cousin’s diagnosis with a muscle-wasting disease, shone through in her winning entry to the Microscopy Image Contest, where she highlighted viral delivery to mouse muscle with VECTASHIELD® Antifade Mounting Medium with DAPI. Dig into Courtney’s story and see her prize-winning staining. Dig into Courtney’s story and see her prize-winning staining.

Harnessing neutrophils to fight infection is all about striking the right balance: Linda explains that while they take on the heroic role of first responders, showing up at the scene of infection to fight off pathogens, they can also cause tissue damage by ramping up inflammation. Fortunately, she’s learned a thing or two about balance during her immunostaining experiments in lung tissue, which requires extremely careful imaging to overcome the challenge of autofluorescence. Immunostaining gives Linda a window through which she can visualize biological processes, and she hopes that her research will eventually lead to a neutrophil-based therapy that prevents pneumonia from becoming a systemic infection. En route to that lofty goal, she scooped up a prize from the Vector Microscopy Contest with her spectacular images, captured using VECTASHIELD® Antifade Mounting Medium. Check out Linda’s full story.

Selva took a strategic approach when it came time to choose his research question: he believes in being a global citizen and doing research with a public health impact, so he did what he calls a “quick review” of the infectious diseases that the affect humans around the world. Tuberculosis, which has the quirky habit of hanging around in the body for years prior to causing active disease, was right at the top of the list. Witnessing people in his own village suffering from tuberculosis while growing up in India, where it is endemic, also gave him a personal connection to this devastating disease. Selva leverages immunostaining techniques to probe the vexing puzzle of how and why latent tuberculosis becomes active, with the eventual goal of developing novel, host-directed therapies. His experiments get an extra boost from the Vector TrueVIEW® Autofluorescence Quenching Kit, which helps him to capture crisp, clear images of tuberculosis-infected lung tissue, and the ImmEdge® hydrophobic Take a closer look at Selva’s work.

What do you get when you combine developmental genetics, insect studies, immunology, and environmental toxicology? In Nathan Martin’s case, it’s a PhD in developmental neurotoxicology, which he describes as an amalgamation of his diverse prior scientific experiences. Fluorescent live imaging gives Nathan a close-up view of the effects that environmental toxin exposure has on early development in zebrafish. Find out more about Nathan’s work.

Are you ready to join this impressive line-up? Submit your image for consideration and help us celebrate the art of scientific discovery.