2019 MGRI Image Contest: Meet the Winner and Finalists

2019 Mass General Research Institute Image Contest finalists

The second annual Mass General Research Institute Image Contest produced 46 amazing images from researchers across 15 centers and departments at Mass General. After two weeks of deliberation, the judges have finally selected a winner and eight finalists.

The winner will be featured in a full-page ad in Proto Magazine and the finalists will be featured in an installation in the lobby display case of Building 149 in the Charlestown Navy Yard.

We started the Image Contest last year to encourage researchers to share their research with the world, and we could not be happier with the results.

Thank you to all of the researchers who shared a glimpse of their lives and work, and to all of the people who voted to support investigators and their research at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Learn more about the finalists and their images below and check out the album on Facebook to see all the entries!

Winner: “Neutrophil Attack!”

“Neutrophil Attack!”
Adam Viens

Image credit: Adam Viens
Principal Investigators: David Sykes, MD, PhD, and Michael Mansour, MD, PhD
Department/Center: Center for Regenerative Medicine, Cancer Center, Infectious Diseases Division

As part of the Mansour lab, Viens is focused on understanding the innate immune system, specifically white blood cells and how they recognize and respond to fungal pathogens.

The goal is to develop novel cellular diagnostics and therapies for invasive fungal infections.

Image description

“A mouse neutrophil has recognized and started to engulf a pathogenic fungi (Candida albicans) This specific fungal species can exist in two forms: a round yeast or an extended hyphae. A group of hyphae are depicted in this image.”

What is most exciting about this image?

“Being able to capture the initial ‘handshake’ of neutrophils and fungal pathogen before the pathogen are completely engulfed. This is the critical step before a neutrophil can swallow and kill the fungi.”


“Tunnel Vision”

“Tunnel Vision”
Michael Datko, PhD

Image credit: Michael Datko, PhD
Principal investigator: Vitaly Napadow, PhD, LicAc
Department/Center: Radiology, Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging (Martinos Center)

Michael’s research focuses on using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to to investigate brain stem and cortical sensitivity in patients with chronic migraines, and how that sensitivity may change as a result of multimodal mind-body therapy (a combination of mindfulness meditation training and transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation).

Why did you take this image?

“Almost every picture of an MRI magnet is taken from the same perspective: from the doorway leading into the magnet room. Most cameras contain material that would not be safe to bring close to a strong magnetic field, and therefore pictures can only be taken from a different room.

“After this new MRI magnet was delivered to the Martinos Center this summer, it was still some time before the strong 7-tesla magnetic field was active. I saw an opportunity to get a different visual perspective of the magnet by bringing a camera inside the room before the field was up, so I requested permission from the Center’s safety officer before taking some long-exposure photographs with a digital camera.”


“The Layers of the Hippocampus”

“The Layers of the Hippocampus”
Caroline Magnain, PhD

Image credit: Caroline Magnain, PhD
Department/Center: Radiology, Martinos Center

Dr. Magnain’s uses an imaging technique called optical coherence tomography (OTC) to visualize and segment the cortical layers of the human brain and identify different brain regions.

Why did you take this image?

“The hippocampus is a brain structure involved in memory formation and is affected in neuropathologies such as Alzheimer’s disease. Visualizing and segmenting its structure is therefore of great importance for researchers.

“Optical Coherence Tomography reveals the laminar structure of the hippocampus, which reminded me of the layering I observed in an Icelandic hot spring due to the mineral deposits.”


“Work-life Balance”

“Work-life Balance”
Lisa Goers, PhD

Image credit: Lisa Goers, PhD
Principal Investigator: Cammie Lesser, MD, PhD
Department/Center: Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases

Goers’ research group studies shigella, the bacterial pathogen that causes dysentery. Shigella bacteria can infect the cells in our gut and cause symptoms of diarrhea. Many shigella and human proteins play a role in the infection process. Our work is designed to teach scientists how Shigella bacteria infect our cells and how our cells defend themselves.

Why did you take this image?

“I was working in the lab late one Sunday and my wife and baby were waiting outside the lab for me to finish so we could all go home together.

“I commonly take pictures of the organisms and equipment that I work with every day. Laboratories are full of beautiful repeating patterns, like these yeast colonies, Petri dishes of bacteria, rows of test tubes and test tube holders, shelves of glass ware or racks of pipettes.

“Last year, I submitted a photo of a Petri dish of bacterial colonies through which you could see the lab. My wife suggested that I should take a photo to illustrate my work-life balance on that evening. Really, all the credit for the photo idea goes to my wife.

“Finding the right work-life balance is a common struggle for postdocs like myself. I took this image to show that scientific research is a rewarding, but also demanding career.

“Behind every microscope image, graph or data table that you see are many hours, heated discussions, failed experiments, spilled tears and test tubes, and passionate and curious researchers, their colleagues, collaborators and families.

“Also, this particular Petri dish was made by our technician Yuxin (Catherine) Ma, since nearly all of research is collaborative.”


“Green Eggs and SEM”

“Green Eggs and SEM”
Julie McDonald

Image credit: Julie McDonald
Principal Investigator: Luke Chao, PhD
Department/Center: Molecular Biology

The lab McDonald works in studies organelle ultrastructure, particularly of the mitochondria. The mammalian cells pictured over-express a protein necessary for mitochondrial fusion, and researchers are interested to see how that over-expression affects the mitochondrial network within the cells.

Image description

“This image shows three mammalian cells adhering to an electron microscopy grid, which is an extremely thin carbon mesh. To me, the cells look like fried eggs, with the nuclei as the yolks and the cytoplasm as the whites. The black spots in the image are mostly ice, which is why some form perfect crystalline structures like hexagons.”


“Sebaceous Gland”

“Sebaceous Gland”
Joshua Tam, PhD

Image credit: Joshua Tam, PhD
Department/Center: Dermatology, Wellman Center for Photomedicine

Tam is researching new treatment strategies that affect adipose fat tissue, and what mechanisms are involved.

This image involved a study investigating strategies to target sebaceous glands as a potential acne treatment.

What is most exciting about this image?

“Sebaceous glands have a unique secretion mechanism known as holocrine secretion, and this mechanism is almost entirely captured in this one image.

“Sebocytes (magenta) at the outer edges of the gland are immature and contain almost no lipids (yellow). As the sebocytes mature and migrate towards the center of the gland, they grow larger as they start accumulating lipids. Cell nuclei are labeled in blue.

“The lipids are initially stored in the form of discrete droplets, but as sebocytes reach the center of the gland, the cells spontaneously disintegrate and the lipid droplets merge into a single “blob” of lipid, which is then excreted along the hair shaft.”


“A High Throughput Droplet Merging Device”

“A High Throughput Droplet Merging Device”
Rohan Thakur, PhD

Image credit: Rohan Thakur, PhD
Principal Investigator: Shannon Stott, PhD
Department/Center: Cancer Center

In the Stott lab, Thakur uses microfluidics, biomaterials and imaging technologies to create tools that increase our understanding of cancer biology and how it spreads. The Stott lab has co-developed innovative microfluidic devices that can isolate extraordinarily rare circulating tumor cells from the blood of cancer patients.

How does this image fit into the larger goals of your research?

“This device is a critical tool for the future studies of patient samples. Specifically, this will enable the rapid and personalized study of a patient’s circulating tumor cells.”

What is most exciting about this image?

“The most exciting aspect of this image is that the device and platform are working very well. I’m excited to soon apply them to patient samples and possibly have a real clinical impact!”

“The Deep Vascular Architecture of the Human Brain”

“The Deep Vascular Architecture of the Human Brain”
Michaël Bernier, PhD

Image credit: Michaël Bernier, PhD
Principal Investigator: Jonathan R. Polimeni, PhD
Department/Center: Radiology, Martinos Center

Human in vivo imaging technologies are currently limited in terms of their capacity to measure the smaller vessels of the cerebrovascular architecture. Bernier’s research is focused on improving the vascular segmentation potential of current technologies.

Image description

“The human brain is a complex machine fueled by an intricate network of blood vessels. It has recently become clear that we need to better understand the role of the smallest vessels in this architecture if we seek to understand the origin of many cognitive impairments and their effects on brain function and health. 

“This unique image was created using the high-field 7T Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) at the Martinos Center after an injection of Ferumoxytol, an iron-based supplement that greatly enhances the contrast between tissues and blood vessels in the brain, allowing us to uncover a complex architecture of normally hidden vessels of the white matter.”


“The Brain in Time”

“The Brain in Time”
Jorge Sepulcre, MD, PhD

Image credit: Jorge Sepulcre, MD, PhD
Department/Center: Radiology, Martinos Center

The Sepulcre lab focuses on brain imaging studies aiming at the understanding of large-scale brain networks implicated in human cognition and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

He uses functional connectivity MRI and network theory techniques to untangle network properties of the human brain.

Image description

“This image demonstrates dynamic changes in brain structure over time. Each cluster of nodes represents the functional connectivity of the whole brain at a given point in time.

“Here, we compare each individual configuration to a central, artificial brain which is stable across all brain states. This image allows us to see transitions between different brain states over time, plus how each individual configuration relates to the central representation, which remains stable across all time points.”

How does this image fit into the larger goals of your research?

“Our research seeks to understand the relationship between behavior and changes in dynamic connectivity at the individual level. This image represents our efforts to advance high resolution dynamic changes in brain networks that are otherwise missed with traditional approaches.”

View all the entries in the Facebook album below!


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