Special Feature | 1 February 20132012 International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge

INTRODUCTIONTen years ago, Science and the National Science Foundation (NSF) launched a unique experiment: an international competition to recognize the best examples of projects that bring scientific information to life. The goal was to encourage new ways to visualize data—efforts that are increasingly important for conveying scientific principles and ideas across disciplines and to the general public, and for revealing the hidden beauty of structures on scales from nanometers to the cosmos. Full introduction >>

Photography Free Access

Photography entries

This year's top Photographs all provide a view not normally available to the eye. By playing with wavelength and magnification, these images offer a glimpse of the beautiful details of the natural world around us.

  • First Place/People's Choice
    Biomineral Single Crystals
  • Honorable Mention
    Self Defense
  • Honorable Mention
    X-ray micro-radiography and microscopy of seeds

Illustration Free Access

Illustration entries

Abstracted away from its familiar shape, the brain can be thought of as a dense, intricately connected network.   As this year's winning Illustrations demonstrate, viewing the brain as a network can lead to insights beyond just the structure of the brain; for instance, in solving complex problems using systems with no biological underpinnings, or in guiding the knife of a neurosurgeon.

  • First Place
    Connectivity of a Cognitive Computer Based on the Macaque Brain
  • Honorable Mention/People's Choice
    Cerebral Infiltration

Posters & Graphics Free Access

Posters and Graphics entries

How can an owl turn its head so far? What was the Earth like before humans came along? How do pharmaceuticals end up in the environment? Questions like these can be answered—but only with serious study and a detailed understanding of the problem. Conveying that level of complexity is what this year's Posters do best, whether it's through multiple views of an owl's bones and arteries, or a detailed overview of the history of the planet, starting back 4.6 billion years ago.

  • First Place
    Adaptions of the Owl's Cervical & Cephalic Arteries in Relation to Extreme Neck Rotation
  • Honorable Mention
    Earth Evolution: The Intersection of Geology and Biology
  • People's Choice
    The Pharma Transport Town: Understanding the Routes to Sustainable Pharmaceutical Use

Games & Apps Free Access

Games and Apps entries

This year's notable Games & Apps take participants over the threshold from knowledge to understanding. For example, the physics of planetary accretion and near-light-speed travel may not be part of everyday experience, but these concepts come to life in video game form.

  • Honorable Mention
    CyGaMEs Selene II: A Lunar Construction GaME
  • Honorable Mention
    Velocity Raptor
  • People's Choice

Video Free Access

Video entries

Video is truly a story telling medium, as this year's winners demonstrate. They combine elements captured by non-traditional cameras to tell the story of the heart, reveal the dynamics of seemingly static corals, catalogue the journey of sperm to egg, and highlight the tiniest of motions to generate a new view of the world.

  • First Place/People's Choice
    Alya Red: A Computational Heart
  • Honorable Mention
    Observing the Coral Symbiome Using Laser Scanning Confocal Microscopy
  • Honorable Mention
  • Honorable Mention
    Revealing Invisible Changes In The World

Visualizing Science

Investigate the intersection of art and science with a few of the participants in this year's challenge.


  • Michael K. Reddy, National Institutes of General Medical Sciences
  • Corinne Sandone, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Tierney Thys, National Geographic Explorer
  • Thomas Wagner, NASA

Text: Emily Underwood

In association with the National Science Foundation

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