LAWRENCE — A microscopic image of a material in the lungs that aids in respiration captured while it is under stress earned first place for the University of Kansas School of Engineering in the Biophysical Society’s Art of Science Image Contest.
KU’s winning entry was selected Feb. 5 at the Biophysical Society’s annual conference in Philadelphia. The image is from the work of Ashleigh Steckly, a master’s student in bioengineering from Manhattan, and Ming Li Tan, a senior in chemical and petroleum engineering from Malaysia, in the lab of Prajna Dhar, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering.
“It’s a thrill to win this award. I am grateful to the society meeting attendees who voted to say this was their favorite picture. It also shows us that engineering is not always about number crunching — there is a lot of satisfying ‘artwork’ involved,” Dhar said.
The image — a striking collection of intricately interwoven, black heart-shaped images on a white background — is the product of Dhar’s research on nanoparticles, tiny particles not much larger than atoms, and their potential short-term and long-term impact on the human body. A likely gateway for nanoparticles into the body is through the lungs, so Dhar’s research centers on how these particles interact with a material, known as surfactant, in the lungs designed to reduce the amount of energy required during respiration.
The Biophysical Society’s website says its annual meeting brings together more than 6,000 research scientists in the multidisciplinary fields representing biophysics. With more than 4,000 poster presentations, over 180 exhibits, and more than 20 symposia, it’s the largest meeting of biophysicists in the world.