Nicholas Gunn is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering had one of his photos used on the March 21st cover of the scientific journal Lab on a Chip after winning the 3rd annual μTAS Art in Science Award at the 14th International Conference on Miniaturized Systems for Chemistry and Life Sciences (μTAS) held in Groningen, The Netherlands.
The winning image, entitled Cell Block 9 is described as a colorized SEM micrograph showing fibroblast cells cultured on microscale pedestals. This micropallet array sequesters cells and prevents their migration while allowing for the exchange of soluble factors through the communal growth media covering the array. The technology in the photo is currently being used for applications in cancer research with the goal of using the micropallet array to isolate, enumerate, and collect individual cells from a biopsy of a cancerous tumor. This would tell researchers the cellular makeup of the tumor, which can be very different amongst patients, even those with the same type of cancer and whose tumors appear histologically similar or identical.
Gunn created the image by first plating cells onto a micropallet array and briefly culturing them before fixing them and dehydrating them for imaging. The image was made using a scanning electron microscope (SEM). He took and combined around 10 to 20 smaller images from the microscope so that he could have a very large overall field of view, but also very high resolution. The individual images were stitched together in Adobe Photoshop. He then used Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom to adjust the perspective of the image as well as add false color and change the brightness and contrast levels.
Gunn is a senior member of the research group of G.P. Li, Ph.D., professor and director of the California Institute of Telecommunication and Information Technology (Calit2) and the Integrated Nanosystems Research Facility; and Mark Bachman, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical engineering. He has a B.S degree in bioengineering from UC San Diego, and an M.S. degree in biomedical engineering from UC Irvine. His awards include Best Student Paper at the 2008 American Society of Mechanical Engineering’s (ASME) 3rd Frontiers in Biomedical Devices Conference and Exhibition. He is also an Arnold & Mabel Beckman Foundation ARCS Scholar.
The μTAS Art in Science Award was established in 2008 to commemorate the inspiration of scientific discovery and technological advancement that can be conveyed through illustrations of scientific merit.