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Art of Science Contest

Data curators at the UC San Diego Library have the privilege of working with researchers from a wide range of scientific disciplines as they prepare data for the Library's Research Data Collections repository. The visually stunning nature of some of these research data sets has inspired the Library's Research Data Curation Program (RDCP) to host its second annual Art of Science contest, which aims to celebrate and bring awareness to the beauty that can emerge during scientific exploration.

UC San Diego students, postdoctoral and faculty researchers, and project scientists are invited to submit images, graphics and descriptions related to their research that explains their work in a way that is both engaging and accessible to non-scientists.

Contest Timeline

    • Submissions: January 18 - May 15
    • Voting/Judging: May 23 - June 12
    • Winners notified: June 21
    • Public announcement of winners: August 11
    • San Diego Natural History Museum Art of Science and Library exhibits: August 12 - January 15

Awards and Recognition

  • Winning images will be exhibited at the San Diego Natural History Museum and on campus (see below for more information).
  • Judge-selected images:
    • One winner from each participant category (undergraduate, graduate, postdoc, and faculty/project scientist) will receive a $75 prepaid Visa card.
    • Up to three honorable mentions (no monetary award).
  • Open voting selection (crowd nominated favorite): $75 prepaid Visa card.

Winning images will be exhibited in Starlight, the Library’s digital exhibit application, in a gallery on the 1st floor at the San Diego Natural History Museum this summer, and in the Sally T. WongAvery Library breezeway. All submissions will be preserved in the Library's Digital Collections repository. Contest winners will also be invited to submit a short video recording of themselves discussing their work.

What Can Be Submitted

Photographs, microscope images, illustrations, visual depictions of complex datasets, the result of modeling and simulation, combined images, and creative representations of your work. Images may be modified to enhance their aesthetic, such as combining multiple images into one artistic work.

  • For instance, those whose work is highly theoretical or conceptually challenging may wish to design a novel visual metaphor to make it more accessible.
  • Photographs may be of instrumentation, apparati, devices or other objects used in your scientific investigation.
  • Photographs of original art or three-dimensional physical models or representations are also eligible as long as they depict your original science or mathematics research.

Undergraduates: Submissions can be based on research conducted during course, laboratory, or formal research projects.

Graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and project scientists: Submissions should be original research outputs based on original research conducted in residence at or in affiliation with UC San Diego.

Submission Guidelines

  • Include a title, a one-line caption that tantalizes audiences, inspiring them to learn more about the research and communicates the science in clear, concise language that is accessible to non-scientists, and a description.
  • Image minimum width and height: 2160px x 2160px
  • File size: 50 MB or smaller
  • Accepted file formats: jpg, gif, tif, or png.
  • Images cannot contain any personally identifiable information.
  • UC San Diego and UC San Diego affiliated undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral and faculty researchers are eligible to participate.
  • One submission per participant.


A panel of judges composed of faculty members, senior academic staff, and administrators will review all eligible entries.

Evaluation Criteria

  • Image: aesthetic excellence (captivating, stunning, and/or otherwise visually interesting) as well as scientific or technical interest.
  • Caption: the one-line caption should tantalize audiences, inspiring them to learn more about the research. It should use clear, concise language that is accessible to non-scientists.

A small group of UC San Diego Library administrators will tally votes and, in cases where the judge’s nominations do not coalesce around a clear winner, they will select one from among the top candidates.

Open Voting

Anyone with a PollUnit Art of Science contest link can vote for a single favorite image. The image with the most number of “likes” will be designated as the Open Voting winner.

To view 2021 contest winners, visit the Library's Starlight e-exhibit at

For marketing partners: Art of Science Marketing Toolkit.

Please direct questions about the contest to Abby Pennington at

Previous page, Explore section, Art of Science image: Adi Khen, "Bigeye Octopus Suckers," Open Voting Winner (2021).