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Winning images from MRC LMB’s 2021 Microscopes4Schools Science Image Award revealed



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From insect wings to plant petals, a range of biological samples were captured in images taken by about 800 children across nine schools for a competition organised by the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge.

The winners of the Science Image Award have now been unveiled.

The first prize in the 2021 Microscope4Schools Science Image Award went to Duxford Community Primary School for its pansy picture
The first prize in the 2021 Microscope4Schools Science Image Award went to Duxford Community Primary School for its pansy picture

Part of the laboratory’s Microscopes4Schools (M4S) science outreach programme, the competition helps to foster scientific curiosity in children by connecting the microscopic world to their everyday lives.

Lead scientists Simon Bullock and Jon Howe worked with the LMB public engagement team to take the competition to a wider selection of schools, across Cambridge, Peterborough and Bedfordshire.

Each was given a hand-held digital microscope for two weeks, during which children took images of the samples that they had collected.

Second prize in the 2021 Microscope4Schools Science Image Award went to Duxford Community Primary School for its pansy picture
Second prize in the 2021 Microscope4Schools Science Image Award went to Duxford Community Primary School for its pansy picture

Each school submitted their top 10, which were anonymised and judged on their quality and originality by Brad Amos, an emeritus scientist at the LMB, before prizes were awarded in virtual ceremonies hosted by Simon and Jon.

First prize went to Duxford Community Church of England Primary School for its image of a pansy. The school won a digital microscope kindly donated by competition sponsor Brunel Microscopes.

Duxford Community Primary School winners of the 2021 Microscope4Schools Science Image Award
Duxford Community Primary School winners of the 2021 Microscope4Schools Science Image Award

Brad said: “In macrophotography it is easy to capture detail and hard to make a good composition. This photo is unusual in being superb in both respects.”

Duxford School also took second for an image of flower buds, winning 10 wooden microscopes donated by Echo.

Brad said it was “a very clever selection: the plant buds…are beautifully captured”.

Third prize in the 2021 Microscope4Schools Science Image Award went to Winhills Primary Academy for its beetle image
Third prize in the 2021 Microscope4Schools Science Image Award went to Winhills Primary Academy for its beetle image

Winhills Primary Academy won third prize for a beetle image and will receive five wooden Echo microscopes. Brad noted it was “billiantly lit to show the shining tubercles on the cuticle of this beetle”.

Winhills Primary Academy pupils with their prize from the 2021 Microscope4Schools Science Image Award
Winhills Primary Academy pupils with their prize from the 2021 Microscope4Schools Science Image Award

Close runners-up were a purple nettle image from Histon & Impington Brook Primary School and a feather picture from Arbury Primary School. The runners-up had a chance to meet the scientists virtually and ask them questions about aspects of science, including careers.

Purple nettle flower by Histon and Impington Brook Primary School and feather by Arbury Primary School - runners-up in the LMB's 2021 Microscope4Schools Science Image Award
Purple nettle flower by Histon and Impington Brook Primary School and feather by Arbury Primary School - runners-up in the LMB's 2021 Microscope4Schools Science Image Award

Sarah Joomun, a teacher at Arbury Primary School, said: “We loved having the microscope in school. It created a real buzz and we would love to be part of any other science-based outreach programmes in the future.”

The shortlisted images can now be seen on the LMB’s website.

The contest will be renamed as the Microscopes4Schools Competition in 2022 and more schools will be recruited early in the year.

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