Thank You For Your Submissions

Hey Everyone,

Thank you for allow of your submissions for Art in Science 2017. We have selected the top 40 submissions that we will print and hang in ISE Lab at the University of Delaware from April 14th-May 1st and at Blue Ball Barn from May 5th – June 4th.  The printed images come from a variety of researches within 13 different departments at the University of Delaware. Emails will be sent out soon to all of those who submitted their art work.

See you all in ISE lab and at Blue Ball Barn!

Art in Science 2017 Has a Date!

Hello Everyone,

We have finalized the dates and locations for the 2017 “Art in Science” exhibit.  The exhibit will be on display in two locations this year, the Harker ISE lab at the University of Delaware and Blue Ball Barn at Alapocas Run State Park in Wilmington, Delaware. From April 14th – May 1st, the exhibit will be displayed in the Harker ISE lab. The exhibit will then travel to Blue Ball Barn on May 5th, where it will reside until June 1st. We will have our “Art in Science” event on May 5th at Blue Ball Barn where you can peruse the exhibit, purchase prints of your favorite image, and enjoy the wonderful scenery of Alapocas Run State Park.

The call for submissions will start early next week and will close on March 20th


Thank You!

Thank you very much for making our first year hosting Art in Science a successful event! We had nearly 200 attendees which was amazing.

We hope to have your continued support in the future.


Exhibit Locations


The exhibits will be on display in the Harker Lab across from the student spaces (111,216,316,411) on all four floors. Below are snapshots of the exhibits. Thank you again for your continued support.

First Floor Exhibit
Second Floor Exhibit
Third Floor Exhibit
Fourth Floor Exhibit

Exhibit Open

The Art in Science Exhibit on all four floors of the Harker lab are now open for viewing!

For those who submitted, you should have received an email from us. Because we are using an email address from gmail rather than udel, please check your spam folders. We were only recently alerted of this issue, some of these emails may be from a couple of weeks back.

Thank you again for your continued patience and support.

Crystalization : the Beauty of Organization

Even though it is now March, there is still one last chance of a snowstorm. To compensate, salt is sprinkled onto the roads. While salt and snow appear to be adversaries in this scenario, they also have similarities – the characteristic this post will focus on today will be that snow and salt are both crystals.

Crystals are a highly organized solids often characterized by their geometric shapes with flat faces intersecting at specific orientations. These geometries are dictated by the arrangements of the crystal’s molecules into a regular, repeated structure known as a lattice. The lattice can have different geometries depending on the molecule within the crystal, in addition to the type of bond that forms the crystal. Here, we focus on three types of bonds : covalent, ionic, and hydrogen.

Covalent Bonds

Quartz Crystal
Quartz Crystal, Wikimedia
Molecular Structure of Quartz, Wikimedia

Covalent bonds are formed between atoms when they share electrons. Gemstones, arguably the most iconic crystals, are formed with covalent bonds.

Quartz, a common crystal is shown in the image to the right, has a chemical composition of SiO2. Each silicon atom (Si), represented as a blue circle in the schematic, shares its electrons with two oxygen (O) atoms, represented as red circles. These shared electrons, or covalent bonds, are represented as black lines linking the atoms.

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Gemstones, Compound Interest

Although pure silicon dioxide quartz is optically clear, quartz can come in different colors: purple (amethyst), orange (citrine), pink (rose quartz), grey (smoky quartz) and many more. Colors are created by impurities trapped within the crystals for the above quartz varieties by elemental iron, oxidized iron, phosphate, and additional silicon, respectively.

Similarly, some other gemstones also have the same composition but vary in color because of the impurities trapped in the crystal. Most notably rubies and sapphires have the same chemical composition, but chromium impurities give rubies their distinct red color. Other gemstones such as topaz, zircons, and garnets can also vary in color. While gemstones come in many different colors and compositions, they share the characteristics of being crystals made by covalent bonds.

Ionic Bonds

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Rock Salt Crystals, Wikimedia
Schematic of table salt, Wikimedia
Schematic of Table Salt, Wikimedia

A second way to form crystals is through ionic bonding. Ionic bonds are formed when ions with positive charges (cations) are in close proximity to ions with negative charges (anions). Every ionic crystal is composed of at least one cation and one anion creating a net neutral compound.

Table salt is made out of sodium (white circles) and chloride (green circles) ions. Sodium has a positive charge while chloride has a negative charge. Since oppositely charged ions attract, cations and anions will alternate and create a very regular pattern. Therefore, the lattice in ionic crystals are held together with the electrostatic force of ionic bonds.

Hydrogen Bonds

SEM Images of Snowflakes
SEM Images of Snowflakes, Wikimedia
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Schematic of Hydrogen Bonding, Wikimedia

When water freezes, it too becomes a crystal through a process called hydrogen bonds. Similar to ionic bonding, in hydrogen bonding the molecules forming the crystal does not share electrons.

Hydrogen bonding occurs in molecules that have a hydrogen covalently bonded to an atom that is eletronegative, meaning the atom holds onto its electrons very tightly. Therefore, the electron will spend more time around the eletronegative atom rather than the hydrogen atom. In water, two hydrogen atoms are covalently bonded with an electronegative oxygen atom. Therefore, the water molecule will be slightly negatively charged around the oxygen atom and slightly positive around the hydrogen atoms.  Further, these slightly charged portions of the molecules will align to create a lattice.

X-Ray Crystallography

In addition to hydrogen, other atoms can create bonds that help align molecules as well. Scientists use this phenomenon in a technique called x-ray crystallography. In x-ray crystallography the structures of molecules can be determined.

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Schematic of X-Ray Crystallography

First, a specific molecule must be purified and allowed to aggregate into a crystal. Next, a series of x ray beams pierce the crystal. Some of these xrays will be deflected by molecules creating diffraction patterns. Because specific structures will create specific angles and intensities diffraction patterns, scientists can piece together the structure of the unknown molecule. By using a crystal of the molecule, scientists can benefit from the organized lattice structure.

From jewelry to the weather and even our kitchen tables, crystals are adding not only a bit of beauty, but also a bit of structure to our lives.

Until next time.

Last Call for Submissions!

Hello all:

A reminder that submissions close tomorrow, March 3rd, at noon. While we have collected many amazing and beautiful scientific images to display, we wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to include yours!

Once again, to ensure the best quality images for printing, we request that only TIF/TIFF images be submitted. Our submissions page allows attachments up to 50 MB, if your image is larger, please submit your image using a google drive link to the email below.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at

Thanks to all who have already submitted, and thanks in advance to those who will.

Smaller Than Stippling : Quantum Dots

With an article out in UDaily, we are connecting the last of the dots in putting Art in Science together.

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Sleeping Girl, Roy Lichtenstein, Legion of Andy

Dot Techniques in Art

Dots are featured in many different art techniques.The dot technique that may be the most familiar is the Ben-Day dots most frequently seen in comic books. Ben-Day dots are characterized as a series of large unicolor dots with of uniform size and spacing.

Although they were created by and named after Benjamin Henry Day, Ben-Day dots are most iconic in the work of Roy Lichtenstein during the pop art movement in 1950-1960. Lichtenstein used the dots to create different tones in his pieces while still largely using only primary colors. The close up of Lichtenstein’s sleeping girl to the right demonstrates the use of red dots to develop the peach tone of skin and the deeper red of the lip.

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Femmes au bord de l’eau, Georges Seurat, Wikimedia

Pointillism is another dot related art technique. Developed by Georges Seurat and Paul Signac in the 1880s as a derivative of impressionism, pointillism overlays small colored dots.  Similarly to impressionism, pointillism does not blend any colors together but uses the overlaid colors to create the impression of a new color.

This concept of overlaying colors to create the impression of a new color is used on a much smaller scale in color printers. Color printers follow four color model, also known as the CMYK model. The CMYK model overlays dots of cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow (Y), and black/key (K) to create the full spectrum of colors.

Example of Stippling

While there are more art techniques that feature dots, the last technique we will discuss is stippling. Stippling differs from Ben-Day dots and pointillism in that the dots are small, uniform in size, but shading is created by altering the spacing between dots. The denser the dots, the darker the color appears. Because stippling relies only on the changes in spacing between dots, it is often found in monochromatic works.

Quantum Dots

Quantum dots are spherical nanosized semiconductors. A semiconductor is characterized by a material with a specific set of electrical properties. Semiconductors have a resistance between that of conductive materials (metals, low resistance) and insulators (high resistance). Hence, the material is somewhat or “semi-” conducive.

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Cadmium Telluride Quantum Dots, PlasmaChem GmbH, Wikimedia

Quantum dots absorb white light and emit colored light. The color of quantum dots depends on the size of the dot. 2-3 nanometer quantum dots emit short wavelengths colors such as blue while larger quantum dots (5-6 nanometers in radius) emit longer wavelength colors such as red. The control over quantum dot size and the resulting optical effect is useful in many technologies.

Electronic Displays

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LCD vs Quantum dot display, Engadget

Similar to organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays, using quantum dots would create flexible electronic displays. However, large quantum dot displays will be easier to create than large OLED displays and also have longer lifetimes. Additionally, quantum dot-based LEDs have very narrow bandwidths, which means that the colors emitted by the quantum dot based LEDs are very bright, pure, and efficient. Compared to current liquid crystal displays (LCD), quantum dot displays can display 50% more color. Using the optical properties of quantum dots, quantum dot displays would allow for brighter, more colorful, and more efficient electronic displays.

Although quantum dot displays can improve on current electronic display technology, there are a few obstacles hindering its widespread use.These obstacles include, but are not limited to: difficulties manufacturing the very small blue quantum dots, and unequal quantum yields across different quantum dots. Quantum yield is a ratio that compares how much light is emitted for each unit of light used for excitation. Different quantum yields among quantum dots means that although the light absorbed by individual quantum dots are the same intensity, the light emitted by the quantum dots will differ in intensity. However, quantum dot displays are already available in selected devices, and there will likely be more to come.

Cancer Imaging

One of the difficulties in tumor removal is that there is no clear boundary between the tumor and the surrounding healthy tissue. Additionally, there may be satellite tumors hidden in the surrounding tissue several centimeters away from the primary tumor. It is difficult for surgeons to completely remove all cancerous tissue while leaving all of the healthy tissue. Quantum dots can be modified to target cancerous tissue allowing surgeons to visualize both the boundary of the primary tumor and also any satellite tumors. For images and more information, please read this ActaNaturae paper.

Gene Detection

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Schematic of resonance energy transfer

The emission of quantum dots, similar to fluorophores, can be used to excite other quantum dots of a different size and color. This effect, called resonance energy transfer, only occurs when the two quantum dots are in close proximity.

To detect specific genes, a specific sequence of DNA is attached to one size of quantum dot. Called a complementary strand, this sequence of DNA will pair perfectly with DNA from a specific gene and reveal whether that specific gene is expressed. Then, DNA from a cell or person is attached to a second size of quantum dot. If the specific gene is expressed, it will bind to the complementary strand. The binding of the specific gene DNA and complementary strand DNA brings the two quantum dots into close proximity. Analyzing the quantity and location of the colors emitted reveals any resonance energy transfer, and therefore, whether the specific gene is expressed.

From art to science, dots are used to create beautiful and useful images. In the end, dots all we need to know!

Until Next Time

Green Fluorescent Protein : Illuminating Molecular Level Processes

Steel Jellyfish, Julian Voss-Andreae

We are incentivizing entries in Art in Science by offering a monetary prize – and who doesn’t love a good prize? Specifically speaking, who doesn’t love the Nobel Prize?

In 2008, Martin Chalfie, Osamu Shimomura, and Roger Tsien won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery and subsequent development of green fluorescent protein (GFP) as a microbiology tool. A sculpture of the protein entitled “Steel Jellyfish” is on display at Friday Harbor Laboratories in Washington where GFP was discovered.

GFP as a Microbiology Tool

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GFP protein structure, Wikimedia

GFP is composed of 238 amino acids, or protein building blocks. These amino acids associated with each other using hydrogen bonding into 11 secondary structures known as beta sheets or beta pleated sheets. These 11 beta pleated sheets form the barrel shape called a beta-can. Because the beta-can shape is very compact, GFP is a relatively stable protein able to withstand temperatures up to 90C and a pH range of 4-12 with little denaturation. Additionally, the beta-can structure gives GFP a low reactivity, which allows scientists to introduce GFP to other types of cells or organisms with few negative effects.

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Transgenic Mouse, Wikimedia

While the mouse expressing GFP is possibly the most iconic animal, many transgenic GFP organisms exists. In addition to a wide varieties of plants and bacteria, transgenic GFP organisms include zebrafish, rabbits, cats and even pigs. Transgenic GFP zebrafish and mice are even available to purchase commercially as pets.

In addition to transgenic organisms expressing solitary GFP, scientists can create sequences that attach GFP to another protein. When this hybrid protein is expressed, GFP acts as a reporter, allowing scientists to track and observe how these proteins behave within the cell or organism.

Fluorescence vs Bioluminescence

Crystal Jelly, Aequorea victoria.
Aequorea victoria, Wikimedia

GFP was discovered in Aequorea victoria, a species of jellyfish. Also known as the crystal jelly, Aequorea victoria lives in the Pacific waters off the coast of North America. Aequorea victoria is known not only for producing GFP, but also a bioluminescent protein called aequorin.

Bioluminescence occurs from proteins that react with molecules such as calcium ions, oxygen, or ATP, the energy source of living cells. Conversely, fluorescence occurs when the fluorophore, or glowing portion, of proteins or molecules interacts with a specific color of light. Colors of light are characterized by their wavelength and only a very narrow range is absorbed by the fluorophore. The chemical bonds of the fluorophore give the energy from the light a temporary home. The electrons in the chemical bonds are moved to an excited stage with the light energy, and will fall back to their non-excited states and emit light. Since some of the energy from the original light has been dissipated in the chemical bonds, the color of light emitted from the fluorophore is a lower energy color, or higher wavelength. Although there is a range of wavelengths where both the fluorophore excites and the fluorophore emits, there is a narrow range of where there is the maximum amount of excitation and emission occur. Fluorophores exist in many different colors, with different excitation and emission wavelengths, but only GFP is depicted below.

Excitation and Emission of GFP, Thermofisher Spectraviewer

GFP found in jellyfish has a maximum excitation around a wavelength of 395 nanometers and a maximum excitation around 509 nanometers. However, modifications made to GFP by scientists to create enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP ) has an excitation at 488 nanometers.

Because fluorophores require a source of light for excitation, one might wonder where the crystal jellyfish finds a light source in the dark waters. The answer is above – aequorin! Aequorin is a bioluminescent protein that interacts with calcium ions to produces a blue light around 365 nanometers. While 365 nanometers is not a perfect match to the 395 nanometer maximum excitation of GFP, it is well within the range of excitation wavelengths for GFP. How amazing is it that this organism not only has proteins to produce light, but also a complementary one to transform light?

From its origins in a humble jellyfish, GFP has revolutionized research in microbiology.  As my high school calculus teacher always said, “bright kids see things differently.” Now, thanks to GFP, bright proteins help scientists see things differently.

Until next time.