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Scripps Research Alumnus Wins International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge

LA JOLLA, CA – February 2, 2012 – A powerful 3D animation tool created by Graham Johnson at The Scripps Research Institute has been selected as the winning video in the ninth annual International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge.

The competition, co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the journal Science, is designed to celebrate and encourage the visual communication of science for education and journalistic purposes. This year, 212 entries were received from 33 countries, representing every continent except Antarctica. For the first time this year, the public participated in the voting process, selecting their favorite images as People's Choice winners. 

Johnson’s entry—the result of a collaboration with Andrew Noske of the National Center for Microscopy & Imaging Research and Bradley Marsh of the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland—was selected as a first-place winner in the video category by both the judges and through People’s Choice.

To create the winning entry, Johnson, Noske, and Marsh worked to create a prototype of Marsh’s long-term goal of visually simplifying the complex 3D data sets collected in his lab through an imaging technique known as tomography.

Their winning video, “Rapid Visual Inventory & Comparison of Complex 3D Structures,” illustrates the tool that enables scientists to compare and contrast multiple parameters of complicated structures, like those found in whole-cell tomograms, at a glance. The video shows how the tool can morph beta cells into simplified geometric versions to enable the visual comparison of the organelle volumes of a single cell and how it can compare relationships between four beta cells collected by Noske, Marsh, and colleagues under different physiological conditions.

“Scientists and general audiences alike can learn a great deal about biology by comparing the internal structural differences between cells harvested from different environments, say from different parts of your body or different lifecycle stages,” said Johnson, an alumnus of the Scripps Research Institute’s Kellogg School of Science and Technology and a newly appointed QB3@University of California San Francisco Faculty Fellow. “Morphing the cell from the complicated native model to the simplified version and back gets general audiences excited about the subject matter and reminds even expert audiences of the complex interplay of randomness and specific interaction that enables life to exist.”

Johnson, Noske, and Marsh’s video and other winning entries appear in the February 3 issue of Science (see www.sciencemag.org and http://www.sciencemag.org/content/335/6068/534.abs), as well as on the NSF website (see www.nsf.gov). It can also be viewed on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/grahamj21?v=Dl1ufW3cj4g&lr=1

About The Scripps Research Institute

The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) is one of the world's largest independent, not-for-profit organizations focusing on research in the biomedical sciences. TSRI is internationally recognized for its contributions to science and health, including its role in laying the foundation for new treatments for cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, hemophilia, and other diseases. An institution that evolved from the Scripps Metabolic Clinic founded by philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps in 1924, the institute now employs about 3,000 people on its campuses in La Jolla, CA, and Jupiter, FL, where its renowned scientists—including three Nobel laureates—work toward their next discoveries. The institute's graduate program, which awards PhD degrees in biology and chemistry, ranks among the top ten of its kind in the nation. For more information, see www.scripps.edu.

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