Nikon Small World Photography Winners 2016

An image of a four-day-old zebrafish by Dr. Oscar Ruiz of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center won top honors today at the annual Nikon Small World competition. The contest honors the beauty and technical skill shown in the tiniest parts of our world found through microphotography. Here are the top twenty winning photographs.

Ist Place
Dr. Oscar Ruiz
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA
Four-day-old zebrafish embryo

Oscar Ruiz, Ph.D., brings the world face-to-face with his research on facial development and cellular morphogenesis with his winning image of a four-day-old zebrafish embryo. Dr. Ruiz uses the zebrafish to study genetic mutations that lead to facial abnormalities such as cleft lip and palate in humans in the lab of Dr. George Eisenhoffer at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

Using time-lapse images of the developing Zebrafish face as a guide, Dr. Ruiz is creating an atlas of the development of the zebrafish face. His group is tracking physical landmarks throughout development to create a series of metrics that can be used to accurately describe the cellular movements that occur during the normal development of the face.  These metrics can then be used to identify abnormalities in the development of Zebrafish harboring specific genetic mutations identified in human patients.  He hopes that these findings will help provide insight into the cellular and molecular mechanisms that are altered in patients with facial deformities.

“Until now, these facial abnormalities had not been extensively studied in a live context where you can see what’s happening during development in real-time," said Dr. Ruiz. Using a live-imaging approach means we can better understand and pinpoint exactly how and why these developmental abnormalities occur. The first step is knowing how it happens. Then we can figure out how to fix it.”

2nd Place  
Douglas L. Moore
University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point  
Museum of Natural History, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, USA
Polished slab of Teepee Canyon agate  

Douglas Moore entered his first Nikon Small World competition over 20 years ago, in 1993.  He is a retired photographer and adjunct faculty member at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, and currently holds the position of Emeritus Curator at the Museum of Natural History at the University.  

This vibrant specimen captured by Moore is a polished slab of Teepee Canyon Agate - a 273-million-year-old marine sedimentary agate in the Black Hills of western South Dakota. Teepee Canyon Agate is striking both macroscopically and microscopically, with vibrant colors and wide bands alternating between chalcedony fibers and iron oxide particles boldly displayed in this specimen.  

As an agate collector and former biologist, Moore is fascinated by these "so called ‘sedimentary agates’ or ‘ limestone agates.’ They are different structurally from volcanic agates and sometimes contain fossils or are replacements of fossil structures such as coral heads or sponges. “The genesis of these agates is poorly understood. What causes the formation of alternating bands is thought to be an oscillating crystallization sequence," says Moore. "That such beauty and detail could be locked in a 273-million-year-old rock amazes me."

3rd Place
Rebecca Nutbrown
University of Oxford, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Oxford, United Kingdom
Culture of neurons (stained green) derived from human skin cells, and Schwann cells, a second type of brain cell (stained red)  

Rebecca Nutbrown is a PhD student at the University of Oxford, in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences. This is her first time entering Nikon Small World, and this is one of the first microscopic images she has ever taken. She is intrigued by the opportunity to capture images at a cellular level, in order to advance the understanding of the brain.

The image shows a co-culture of different brain cell types, namely neurons (axons stained green) derived from human skin cells (induced pluripotent stem cells) and rodent primary Schwann cells (myelin sheath stained red). The cell bodies are stained blue. Nutbrown spent many hours using multiple advanced technologies to develop and showcase the intricate network of the brain.  

Nutbrown submitted this image with a purpose, “to highlight the beauty and complexity of the cellular network in our brains.” She believes the cultures captured in this image represent the first steps in developing revolutionary advancements in personalized medicine and neuroscience. A novice to microphotography, Nutbrown states, “I am fascinated by how the microscope and fluorescence can reveal such complex beauty, completely missed by the naked eye.”

4th Place
Jochen Schroeder  
Chiang Mai, Thailand  
Butterfly proboscis  
Image Stacking

5th Place
Dr. Igor Siwanowicz
Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), Janelia Research Campus, Ashburn, Virginia, USA
Front foot (tarsus) of a male diving beetle

6th Place  
Marek Mis
Marek Mis Photography, Suwalki, Podlaskie, Poland
Air bubbles formed from melted ascorbic acid crystals
Polarized Light

7th Place
Dr. David Maitland 
Feltwell, United Kingdom
Leaves of Selaginella (lesser club moss)  
Differential Interference Contrast

8th Place
Samuel Silberman
Monoson Yahud, Israel  
Wildflower stamens  
Fiber Optic Illumination

9th Place
Vin Kitayama and Sanae Kitayama
Vinsanchi Art Museum Azumino, Azumino, Nagano, Japan
Espresso coffee crystals
Polarized Light

10th Place
Rogelio Moreno Gill
Panama, Panama
Frontonia (showing ingested food, cilia, mouth and trichocysts)  
Differential Interference Contrast

11th Place  
Francis Sneyers
Brecht, Belgium
Scales of a butterfly wing underside (Vanessa atalanta)

12th Place
Dr. Dylan Burnette
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee, USA  
Human HeLa cell undergoing cell division (cytokinesis). DNA (yellow), myosin II (blue) and actin filaments (red)  
Structured Illumination

13th Place
Walter Piorkowski
South Beloit, Illinois, USA
Poison fangs of a centipede (Litius erythrocephalus)
Fiber Optic Illumination/Image Stacking

14th Place
Dr. Keunyoung Kim
University of California, San Diego, National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research (NCMIR), La Jolla, California, USA
Mouse retinal ganglion cells  

15th Place
Geir Drange
Asker, Norway
Head section of an orange ladybird (Halyzia sedecimguttata)
Reflected Light/Focus Stacking

16th Place
Stefano Barone
Diatom Shop, Palazzo Pignano, Italy
65 fossil Radiolarians (zooplankton) carefully arranged by hand in Victorian style  

17th Place
Jose Almodovar
University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus, Biology Department, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico
Slime mold (Mixomicete)
Image Stacking/Reflected Light

18th Place
Pia Scanlon
Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia, Biosecurity and Regulation - Pest Diagnostics, South Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Parts of wing-cover (elytron), abdominal segments and hind leg of a broad-shouldered leaf beetle (Oreina cacaliae)
Stereomicroscopy, Image Stacking

19th Place
Dr. Gist F. Croft, Lauren Pietilla, Stephanie Tse, Dr. Szilvia Galgoczi, Maria Fenner, Dr. Ali H. Brivanlou  
Rockefeller University, Brivanlou Laboratory, New York, New York, USA
Human neural rosette primordial brain cells, differentiated from embryonic stem cells

20th Place
Michael Crutchley
Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, United Kingdom
Cow dung  

See honorable mentions and more at Nikon Small World and at the Small World Instagram feed. You can still vote for your favorite image in the Popular Vote category until October 25th. The Nikon Small World in Motion competition, which honors microphotography in video form, will announce this year's winners on December 14th.

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