2011 International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge

INTRODUCTION—Each year, Science Magazine and the National Science Foundation host the International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge. The 2011 Challenge received over 200 submissions in five categories, which were evaluated based on visual impact, effective communication of a scientific idea, and overall originality. Visualizations with the most votes from the public received the People's Choice award. More >>

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Photographers in this year's competition froze time and zoomed in to extraordinary magnifications to bring the borders of scientific exploration a little closer for everyone. Read Article >>

1st Place
Metabolomic Eye
Honorable Mention
Microscopic Image of Trichomes on the Skin of an Immature Cucumber
People's Choice
The Cliff of the Two-Dimensional World


Illustrations take us to places we can't visit with a microscope or telescope, like a raging battle between breast cancer cells and antibodies or the landscape of relationships between complex numbers. Read Article >>

There was no award for 1st place in this category.

Honorable Mentions
Tumor Death-Cell Receptors on Breast Cancer Cell
Variable-Diameter Carbon Nanotubes
Exploring Complex Functions Using Domain Coloring
People's Choice
Separation of a Cell

Informational Posters & Graphics

Informational graphics rely on the interplay of visuals and text to convey complex ideas such as the origin of galaxies and the structure and function of the Ebola virus. Read Article >>

1st Place
The Cosmic Web

This is a very large image. Explore a hi-res PDF

Honorable Mention
The Ebola Virus
People's Choice
Transmission Electron Microscopy: Structure, Function & 3D Reconstruction

Interactive Games

Games as teaching tools have long been a pedagogical standard, but this year's entries take interactive learning to a new level with programs like Foldit, where players fold proteins for fun while contributing to new scientific research. Read Article >>

1st Place
Foldit (website)
Honorable Mentions
Meta!Blast 3D Interactive Application for Cell and Metabolic Biology. Level 1: The Cell (website)
Powers of Minus Ten (website)
Build-a-Body (website)
People's Choice
Velu the Welder (website)


The use of sound, motion, and drama make video a powerful explanatory tool. In this year's competition, videos enlivened the stories of the organization of cells, self-assembling molecules, and the diversity of animals called "jellyfish." Read Article >>

1st Place and People's Choice
Rapid Visual Inventory & Comparison of Complex 3D Structures
Honorable Mention
High Density Energy Storage Using Self-Assembled Materials
There's No Such Thing as a Jellyfish
Science Careers

Game On: Education as Play

Game designer and former biologist Jeremy Friedberg won an honorable-mention in this year's Visualization Challenge.
Science Podcast
Science Podcast
The 3 February podcast features interviews with one of the judges and two of the winners.
Listen Now (mp3)


  • Thomas Wagner, NASA
  • Donna Cox, National Center for Supercomputing Applications
  • Corinne Sandone, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Alisa Zapp Machalek, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health
  • Keith Powers, Powerful Concepts
  • Tierney Thys, National Geographic Explorer
NSF Logo

In association with the National Science Foundation