Take a look at Exeter’s images of research

Published on: 26 September 2014

This competition is funded by Researcher Development and is run in partnership with Athena SWAN, Catalyst Project, Library Services and Research and Knowledge Transfer.

A journey around Exeter’s research in images takes you from skin vessels to beetles via Antarctic moss.

The stunning images were just some of the winning entries from Researcher Development’s Images of Research 2014 competition that saw early career research staff entering some amazing photography that communicated complex topics to a non-specialists.

The images, all of which were accompanied by an explanation of the related research were seen by more than 1,500 members of the public in a display for Universities week.


Overall winner Natalie Garrett took the top prize with her image titled Bright Beetle, showing an insect whose shell is iridescent (the colour appears to change depending on the angle you look at it from). Her abstract explained: “This is a property of minute structures on its surface. By probing these structures using lasers it is possible to learn more about the interactions of light and matter. Advanced surface coatings such as anti-reflection coatings on glass have been inspired by similar structures found in nature, so these experiments could have a wide range of possible uses.”

Natalie, whose Bright Beetle image also topped the technology category, enjoys taking interesting and unusual photos when working in the lab.

She said: “Biophysics is a very photogenic subject, but producing scientific images that display complex data sets in an understandable and aesthetically pleasing way is not always easy. Photography has helped me to develop an eye for composition, which has no doubt had a positive impact on how I present my data sets. It pays to have a point-and-shoot camera in your desk drawer. Even inexpensive cameras can take amazing photographs.”

She added: “I was thrilled to win the competition; it was an endorsement of the quality of the photographs I’ve taken. Until that point I had considered myself more of a hobbyist, but since winning the competition I am now considering taking photography more seriously.”

Society and culture

Rebecca Abbott won the society and culture category with her image: Can you Imagine Mealtimes in Your Old Age.

Rebecca explained: “I work on health services related systematic reviews - a topic that not only sounds mundane but is also difficult to describe to lay people. I saw the competition as a challenge to myself to see whether I could, in a photo and 100 words, engage someone in my work.

“I was both surprised and delighted to be a category winner. There were some brilliant photos and explanations of some very captivating research. It was also reassuring that what I thought was something that the public could relate to was actually successful.

“Winning has confirmed to me, and the team, that we need to remember there are different audiences for our research and that we need to tailor our messages of research accordingly.”

Sustainable futures

Topping the sustainable futures category was Matt Amesbury with his image: Unlocking the Secrets of Antarctic Moss, which showed moss growing on part of the 0.3 per cent of the Antarctic land surface that is ice-free. It was taken to prompt people to question their assumptions about the Antarctic - it’s not all just ice - and increase interest in his work.

His abstract explained: “At Green Island the moss is almost a metre deep and around 1,500 years old. As they grow moss banks preserve environmental information so by taking cores from them we can develop records linked to past climate change. This is important because the Antarctic peninsula is currently one of Earth’s most rapidly warming regions, but recent changes lack a longer-term perspective which we aim to provide.”

Matt said he hoped wining his category has helped spread the word about his research adding: “It was great to be acknowledged as a category winner. I’m not a great photographer – I was just lucky that my research took place in such an amazing location. I would encourage people to think more day to day about how your research can be visualised – I know I will be. Art is a really powerful medium to catch people’s interest in science and the Images of Research competition provides an excellent showcase for that.

Category winners

The category winners were:


First: Skin Vessels by Clare Thorn

Second: Fairy Light by Rhys Goodhead

Society and Culture

First: Can You Imagine Meal Times in Your Old Age by Rebecca Abbott

Second: Taxpayer’s Diverse Motivations by Diana Onu

Sustainable futures

First: Unlocking the Secrets of Antarctic Moss by Matt Amesbury

Second: Wave Buoy by Ian Ashton


First: Bright Beetle by Natalie Garrett

Second: Superhydrophobia by Natalie Garrett

All of the image entered into the competition can be seen below:

Related links


Report inappropriate comment | Read our comment moderation policy