Images of Research Competition

Knowledge is beautiful. USask researchers know it better than anyone.

Each year, our researchers capture the impact of their research - how their research made a difference to society, economy, other research or global challenges – with an image and a simple description.

The 2022 Winners

Organized by Research Profile and Impact, the eighth annual competition featured:

  • 92 image entries in five submission categories from students, faculty, staff and alumni representing 11 colleges, one school, one research centre, and the university library
  • A total of seven judging panels made up of students, staff, faculty, and community members
  • Over 2,000 public votes cast in the Viewer's Choice category
  • Over 13,000 views of the contest

Biohazardous Birth

Grand Prize Winner

By Nicholas Bauer, undergraduate student in biomedical sciences

Funder: Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada

In 1966, the iconic biohazard symbol was designed to instill immediate fear in whoever saw it. Looking under the microscope, I found uterine tissue shaped like the biohazard symbol and I was immediately reminded of the fears people face during pregnancy. Preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn death, disability, and developmental delays. Despite these burdens, around half of preterm births occur due to unknown causes. In this cross-section of the uterus obtained by epifluorescence microscopy, proteins which may have a role in initiating labour have been made to fluorescently glow. By investigating these proteins, we can possibly learn to predict and even prevent preterm birth – helping to put an end to the hazards of pregnancy.

A Lousy Problem - Literally!

Community Impact (winner)

By Kayla Buhler, PhD student in veterinary microbiology

Funders: Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Weston Family Foundation, ArcticNet and Polar Knowledge Canada 

Back in 2019, I noticed Arctic foxes at my field site with strange fur loss. When the pandemic hit, I was unable to travel to the Arctic, but scientists and trappers from both Nunavut and Norway (Svalbard) were observing similar fur loss. In 2021, I partnered with trappers in Cambridge Bay and Gjoa Haven to identify the reason for this fur loss, as it impacts the quality of pelts. Turns out that it was a lousy problem! Literally, lice were recovered from foxes in Canada and Norway, which turned out to be a brand-new cryptic species that travels with foxes as they disperse between continents across the Arctic sea ice. An important find for northern trappers! 

Out of the Ashes

From the Field (winner)

By Susanna Barnes, faculty member in archaeology and anthropology

Funder: Australian Research Council 

Over the course of three to five days at the end of the dry season (Aug-Sept) in Saburai, Timor-Leste, men, women and children are involved in the cutting and burning of grass and woody plants to prepare the ground for cultivation. As the community moves through the landscape, women and children gather berries and other wild foods, while men hunt wild pigs, civet cats and small monkeys. These are taken to a place called ‘La Ta’, where at the end of the burning period, called ‘An Ini’, a communal ceremony is held to pray for a successful planting season. Maligned and misunderstood, swidden agriculture is critical to the social, spiritual and material well-being of the community. 

Alternative Reality

Arts in Focus (winner)

By Narges Porsandekhial, master’s student in fine arts

Searching for new ways of seeing the reality we live in, my research focuses on altered unavailable realities based on real-world material. I believe photography captures a fixed version of reality, events, and mistakes that once captured, cannot be changed or erased. Questioning the chaos and unfortunate events in our world, I chose to play with the concept of photography and reality. This piece includes thousands and thousands of 2 to 3 centimeters photography elements. I have photographed different regions of the University of Saskatchewan's campus, printed the photos, and tore them into thousands of tiny pieces. Symbolically tearing apart the reality and rearranging all of its components, I have created an alternative reality, out of the existing one. Though it doesn’t exist, though it is fragmented, at least it’s free of real-world modalities. 

Gradient

More than Meets the Eye (winner)

By Phillip Harder, research associate in hydrology

Funder: Global Water Futures 

Our world is composed of gradients in time and space and how we manage our gradients will determine our future. The transition from cropland to riparian vegetation, to macrophytes, and to open water at a prairie wetland near Saskatoon, SK, emphasizes the tenuous interface between production agriculture and water quality and quantity impacts on the Canadian Prairies. 

The Elements Distribution in CDC Arborg Oat

Research in Action (winner)

By Ganqi Deng, PhD student in animal and poultry science

This picture shows the distribution of sulfur, zinc and manganese elements in Arborg Oat. These colours were co-plotted and their colour intensity adjusted to reveal co-occurrence of elements of interest. The green, blue and red areas stand for sulfur, zinc and manganese, respectively. Our study mainly focused on impact of oat varieties on elements distribution and differences of molecular structure, and we want to investigate the impact of oat variety and molecular structure spectral features on animal nutrition. Next, the relationship between differences of elements distribution, molecular structure, and degradation and digestion of oats will be studied. 

Life Holds On

Best Description (winner)

By Jordan Shirley, master’s student in soil science

Here no heart is found – but there is a pulse. This young pea presents an opportunity to solve a world-wide pulse crop disease known as Aphanomyces root rot and improve sustainability within agricultural practices. Dwelling among the roots of this plant are symbiotic nitrogen-fixing root bacteria which are being evaluated as potential biotechnological tools to thwart disease without the need for chemical application. By studying interactions among beneficial microorganisms in the rhizosphere and harmful plant pathogens we may learn - from the ground up - novel ways in which to improve our world. 

Mutual Gratitude - Exchanging Caring

Viewer's Choice (winner)

By Michele Monroy-Valle, PhD student in nutrition epidemiology

Funder: Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship 

While collecting data in Chichicastenango, Guatemala, we learned about the struggle of participant’s families to put food on the table because of COVID-19 restrictions. Therefore, I organized donations for food hampers, and soup mix packages. I was lucky to receive donations from people from USask that know my project, friends from Guatemala, neighbours, and local Canadian aid organization. In the picture, a participant with special needs is incredibly happy and grateful to receive her donation. We need sustainable solutions to assure Food Security in the population, but these hampers help to alleviate two weeks of food scarcity for the families. I am grateful that the people from Chichicastenango welcome and trust me to collaborate with them during the pandemic lockdown. 

Rushing Water

Community Impact (runner-up)

By Leanne Read, undergraduate student in fine arts

Flowing Water is an image that I captured while creating the collaborative animated short “Water You Waiting For”. Scientists associated with the Global Water Futures initiative were interviewed by me and Master of Fine Arts in music student Ricardo Martins. We then translated what we heard into a digital animation and musical score under the guidance of professors Lori Bradford (College of Engineering and School of Environment and Sustainability), Dean McNeill (Department of Music), and Lisa Birke (Department of Art & Art History). The animation follows a water drop as it takes us on a journey across Canada to highlight the 16 most pressing water security issues that are bringing the delicate balance of water sustainability to the tipping point but with a resounding chorus of hope.

Weed Problem: A Never-ending Story

From the Field (runner-up)

By Praveen Sapkota, PhD student in plant science

Funders: BASF 

Weeds that go unchecked are a primary cause of low crop output. Weed management is essential for ensuring future food production. The secret to minimize weed invasion without hurting crops is to target the worst weeds with the best herbicide. The area in the photo was in Vanscoy, Saskatchewan, where my colleagues and I were spraying herbicide to reduce weeds in lentils. We employed post-emergence weed management techniques, which allowed us to screen herbicide-tolerant lentil varieties with good yields for future generations. 

Typha

Arts in Focus (runner-up)

By Louisa Ferguson, master’s student in fine arts

My practice is a personal cultivation of a meaningful relationship with the more than human world that surrounds me. My works are gestures that emerge and take shape from the intimate act of witnessing where the agency of the natural world connects with mine. I create sculpture and installations that invite contemplation and awareness of our interconnectedness to the local landscape. Using local material such plants, clays and naturally occurring pigments, I create sculptures that serve as reliquaries of witnessing, remembering and meditation. Typha, a site-specific installation, invites engagement with a Saskatchewan slough. It documents the symbiotic relationship between cattails and water. Over time, the ice melts and the cattails return to the earth, nourishing the slough, leaving no trace. 

Play on Sunlight

More than Meets the Eye (runner-up)

By Renita Mishal D'Souza, PhD student in chemistry

Funder: Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada

The amount of sunlight the earth receives in an hour and half is enough for the entire world’s energy consumption for a year! Solar cells convert the absorbed solar energy into the electric energy. Of the different types of solar cells, Perovskite solar cell is a type of thin-film cell and is named after their characteristic crystal structure. The Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) image here clearly shows the crystals of a pristine perovskite material. My research focuses on studying the stability of this material in operational conditions.

Prairie Quilt

Research in Action (runner-up)

By Phillip Harder, research associate in hydrology

Funder: Global Water Futures 

The historical legacy of the Dominion Land Survey and the interactions with prairie hydrology and modern agricultural results in a complex mosaic of land use and hydrological expression. Annual crop rotations and extreme weather patterns drive the temporal variability of this very dynamic landscape. Climate change and evolving agricultural practises will further continue to drive variability in this landscape and the work at USask is needed to develop better understanding, predictions, and adaptions to ensure the continued viability of the complex food and water systems that have developed. 

New Life Reveals All

Best Description (runner-up)

By Kayla Buhler, PhD student in veterinary microbiology

Funders: Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Weston Family Foundation, ArcticNet and Polar Knowledge Canada

When you think about climate change in the Arctic, pictures of polar bears and sea ice loss probably come to mind. You may not have thought about infectious diseases, even though they are emerging as temperatures warm. We have very little information about the diseases that northern wildlife encounter. So how do we measure any changes? This Arctic fox mom and her pups are part of a long-term disease study in Nunavut. Her pups, especially, provide a snapshot of the diseases that they encounter during the summer months. A little bit of blood collected from litters each year helps to build a picture of how climate impacts disease transmission in the Arctic. 

The Big Twist

Viewer's Choice (runner-up)

By Hiruni Kathyana Deeyagahage, PhD student in veterinary microbiology

Funders: USask Western College of Veterinary Medicine, Saskatchewan Agriculture Development Fund, Zoetis and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada

Here we have the crystal structure (side and top view) of an antimicrobial peptide (AMP) we recently discovered in our lab. The 17 amino acid helical AMPs are self-assembling into a unique twisted fibril structure while forming a pore with two ring systems, an outer (blue) and an inner ring (red). This porous structure embeds itself into the bacterial membrane resulting in eventual cell death.

Past Competitions

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