Capturing the essence of research in a single image

During UIC’s annual Image of Research competition, graduate and professional students showcase the beauty of their research in a single image, video or animation.

Students selected as winners or honorable mention awardees in the interdisciplinary exhibit competition were celebrated during a recent awards reception. A multidisciplinary jury selected the winners from 75 submissions to the contest, which is organized by the Graduate College and University Library.

“We are so excited to once again recognize our talented UIC students in the Image of Research,” Dean of Libraries Rhea Ballard-Thrower said. “This year’s submissions represent a broad range of research based in the humanities, engineering, social sciences and life sciences.”

An electronic exhibit featuring the winners will be on display in the lobbies of the Daley Library and the Library of the Health Sciences through August. Award-winning entries will be displayed on banners on the east and west sides of campus during the fall semester.

“The exceptionally beautiful and evocative still and moving images represent projects transcending boundaries between art and science,” Ballard-Thrower said. “They not only illuminate but also attempt to repair the socioeconomic disparities and other harms that have a negative impact on critical systems in our society such as our schools, health care and neighborhoods.”

Curriculum studies doctoral student Kristy Ulrich Papczun, whose research centers on public school closure, won first place in the still image category with “East Façade.” The black-and-white image captures a former neighborhood school that served students who lived in Cabrini-Green public housing until it closed in 2009 and reopened as a selective enrollment school.

“The large green lawns adjacent to the school serve as scars where the public housing towers once stood, but only if one knows the site’s history,” Ulrich Papczun writes. “The benign nature of this photograph betrays the contested history of the site that I argue is masked over when schools are closed.

“Noting the unsettling symmetry and lacking any distinct identifiers, this image could stand in to represent any of the hundreds of neighborhood schools in Chicago that have been closed. Throughout my research, I use the methodology of portraiture, including images like this, to have conversations about school closings as a way to reconsider how the past is always present.”

Biomedical visualization student Hannah Koffman won first place in the moving image/animation category for “Mast Cell Histamine Response,” which documents the complex immune system response to allergens.

“The goal of this animation was to create an engaging and informative resource for educators, students and researchers alike, providing a visual representation of the complex processes involved in the immune system’s response to allergens,” Koffman writes. “The animation will spark interest and promote research in the field, as well as provide valuable information to those seeking to understand this topic in greater detail.”

Urban planning and policy student Jenna Pollack was honored with first place in the moving image/live-action category for “Community Voices for Community Change in McKinley Park.” Pollack created the video when she was a teaching assistant and studio manager for the Master of City Design program’s 2022 Chicago Charrette. The documentary clip features two McKinley Park residents, Kate Eakin and Jessica Fong, describing the changing industrial development landscape in their neighborhood.

“My research is rooted in community-led planning processes, progressive economic development and grassroots expressions,” Pollak writes. “As part of the studio’s design of three cutting-edge public infrastructure and civic realm projects, I aimed to creatively capture the voice of residents to drive the process rather than those of the students or potential developers.

“Ultimately, producing a documentary was one of the strategies I employed to reflect back to residents the beauty, complexity and diversity of voices that drive this work.”

View more about the winners and the honorable mention honorees on the Image of Research website.

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