Fluorescence Turtle Embryo Wins Forty-Fifth Annual Nikon Small World Competition

Oct 21, 2019

The winners of the 45th annual competition showcase a spectacular blend of science and artistry under the microscope.

First Place: Fluorescent turtle embryo (Teresa Zgoda & Teresa Kugler)

Nikon Instruments Inc. today announced the winners of the forty-fifth annual Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition. First place was awarded to microscopy technician Teresa Zgoda and recent university graduate Teresa Kugler for their visually stunning and painstakingly prepared photo of a turtle embryo. Captured using fluorescence and stereo microscopy, the colorful final image is a masterful example of image-stitching.

Image-stitching is an imaging technique that required the 2019 winning pair to stack and stitch together hundreds of images to create the final image of their turtle. Adding to the challenge was the size and thickness of the turtle embryo. Creating the final image required precision, patience, and deep imaging expertise, as the organism’s size meant only very small parts of the turtle could be imaged on the focal plane at a time.

Both Kugler and Zgoda are passionate photomicrographers, saying microscopy is a hobby that allows them to spend time on their dual passions of science and creative pursuits. Their winning image perfectly exemplifies the blend of science and art Nikon Small World aims to bring to the public each year. Zgoda currently resides in Boston, Massachusetts, Kugler in New York.

“Microscopy lets us zoom in on the smallest organisms and building blocks that comprise our world – giving us a profound appreciation for the small things in life that far too often go unnoticed,” said Kugler, “It allows me to do science with a purpose.”

“We are inspired by the beautiful images we see through the microscope,” added Zgoda, “It’s humbling and deeply fulfilling to be able to share that science with other people.”

“The Nikon Small World competition has been bringing stunning scientific images to the public for 45 years now,” said Eric Flem, Communications Manager, Nikon Instruments, “Our goal has always been to show the world how art and science intersect. As new imaging and microscopy techniques develop over the years, our winners showcase these technology advances more and more creatively. First place this year is no exception.”

Second place was awarded to Nikon Small World veteran Dr. Igor Siwanowicz for his composite image of three single-cell freshwater protozoans, sometimes called "trumpet animalcules.” He used confocal microscopy to capture the detail of the cilia, tiny hairs used by the animals for feeding and locomotion.

In third place is Mr. Daniel Smith Paredes, who placed for his image of a developing American alligator embryo. He snapped this photo at around 20 days of development using immunofluorescence and is studying the development and evolution of vertebrate anatomy.

In addition to the top three winners, Nikon Small World recognized 86 photos out of thousands of entries from scientists and artists across the globe.

The 2019 judging panel included:

  • Dr. Denisa Wagner, Edwin Cohn Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and the head of the Wagner Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital.
  • Dr. Rita Strack, Senior Editor at Nature Methods.
  • Tom Hale, Staff Writer at IFLScience.
  • Ben Guarino, Science Reporter at The Washington Post.
  • Eric Clark (Moderator): Research Coordinator and Applications Developer at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University.

The following are the Top 20 and Honorable Mentions for Nikon Small World 2019. The full gallery of winning images, along with Images of Distinction, can be viewed at

1st Place
Teresa Zgoda & Teresa Kugler

Campbell Hall, New York, USA
Fluorescent turtle embryo
Stereomicroscopy, Fluorescence
5x (Objective Lens Magnification)

2nd Place
Dr. Igor Siwanowicz

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)
Janelia Research Campus
Ashburn, Virginia, USA
Depth-color coded projections of three stentors (single-cell freshwater protozoans)
40x (Objective Lens Magnification)

3rd Place
Daniel Smith Paredes & Dr. Bhart-Anjan S. Bhullar

Yale University
Department of Geology and Geophysics
New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Alligator embryo developing nerves and skeleton
10x (Objective Lens Magnification)

4th Place
Jan Rosenboom

Universität Rostock
Rostock, Mecklenburg Vorpommern, Germany
Male mosquito
Focus Stacking
6.3x (Objective Lens Magnification)

5th Place
Caleb Foster

Caleb Foster Photography
Jericho, Vermont, USA
Transmitted Light
4x (Objective Lens Magnification)

6th Place
Javier Rupérez

Almáchar, Málaga, Spain
Small white hair spider
Reflected Light, Image Stacking
20x (Objective Lens Magnification)

7th Place
Dr. Guillermo López López

Alicante, Spain
Chinese red carnation stamen
Focus Stacking
3x (Objective Lens Magnification)

8th Place
Garzon Christian

Quintin, Cotes-d’Armor, France
Frozen water droplet
Incident Light
8x (Objective Lens Magnification)

9th Place
Andrei Savitsky

Cherkassy, Ukraine
Tulip bud cross section
Reflected Light
1x (Objective Lens Magnification)

10th Place
Jason M. Kirk

Baylor College of Medicine
Optical Imaging & Vital Microscopy Core
Houston, Texas, USA
BPAE cells in telophase stage of mitosis
Confocal with Enhanced Resolution
63x (Objective Lens Magnification)

11th Place
Dr. Yujun Chen & Dr. Jocelyn McDonald

Kansas State University
Department of Biology
Manhattan, Kansas, USA
A pair of ovaries from an adult Drosophila female stained for F-actin (yellow) and nuclei (green); follicle cells are marked by GFP (magenta)
10x (Objective Lens Magnification)

12th Place
Anne Algar

Hounslow, Middlesex, United Kingdom
Mosquito larva
Darkfield, Polarizing Light, Image Stacking
4x (Objective Lens Magnification)

13th Place
Dr. Emilio Carabajal Márquez

Madrid, Spain
Cuprite (mineral composed of copper oxide)
Focus Stacking
20x (Objective Lens Magnification)

14th Place
Antoine Franck

CIRAD - Agricultural Research for Development
Saint Pierre, Réunion
Female Oxyopes dumonti (lynx) spider
Focus Stacking
1x (Objective Lens Magnification)

15th Place
Marek Miś

Marek Miś Photography
Suwalki, Podlaskie, Poland
Pregnant Daphnia magna (small planktonic crustacean)
Modified Darkfield, Polarized Light, Image Stacking
4x (Objective Lens Magnification)

16th Place
Dr. Razvan Cornel Constantin

Bucharest, Romania
Housefly compound eye pattern
Focus Stacking, Reflected Light
50x (Objective Lens Magnification)

17th Place
Karl Deckart

Eckental, Bavaria, Germany
Vitamin C
Brightfield, Polarized Light
4x (Objective Lens Magnification)

18th Place
E. Billie Hughes

Lotus Gemology
Bangkok, Thailand
Cristobalite crystal suspended in its quartz mineral host
40x (Objective Lens Magnification)

19th Place
Martyna Lukoseviciute & Dr. Carrie Albertin

University of Oxford
Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine
Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
Octopus bimaculoides
Confocal, Image Stitching
5x (Objective Lens Magnification)

20th Place
Simon Merz, Lea Bornemann & Sebastian Korste

University Hospital Essen
Institute for Experimental Immunology & Imaging
Essen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
Blood vessels of a murine (mouse) heart following myocardial infarction (heart attack)
Tissue Clearing, Light Sheet Fluorescence Microscopy
2x (Objective Lens Magnification)

Honorable Mentions

Nathan Burns

National Institutes of Health (NIH)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Bethesda, Maryland, USA
Endothelial cells in intestine of an 18.5-day old mouse embryo. Blood vessels and intestinal lining in blue; nerves in red and green.
10x (Objective Lens Magnification)

Caleb Dawson

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
Department of Cancer Biology and Stem Cells
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Myoepithelial cells wrapped around milk-producing alveoli in a lactating mouse
3D Confocal
63x (Objective Lens Magnification)

Dr. Tagide deCarvalho

University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)
Keith R. Porter Imaging Facility
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Penicillium mold spores
63x (Objective Lens Magnification)

Güray Dere

Istanbul, Turkey
Seed of an unknown garden bush
Focus Stacking
5x (Objective Lens Magnification)

Sergii Dymchenko

SDym Photography
Bellevue, Washington, USA
Mold on a plum seed
Reflected Light, Image Stacking
4x (Objective Lens Magnification)

Anthony Brent Eason

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
Human herpesvirus-8 replicating (red) inside the nucleus (blue) of a human blood vessel cell. Cell skeleton (tubulin) is shown in green.
100x (Objective Lens Magnification)

Dr. Walter Ferrari

La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Louse hanging from a hair
Darkfield, Focus Stacking
10x (Objective Lens Magnification)

Nicolas Harmand, David Pereira & Dr. Sylvie Hénon

Université Paris Diderot
Department of Physics
Paris, France
Dog kidney cells on a circular pattern of adhesion proteins
60x (Objective Lens Magnification)

Frederic Labaune

Education Nationale
Auxonne, Burgundy, France
Heart of Geranium dissectum
Episcopy, Focus Stacking
10x (Objective Lens Magnification)

Dr. Balint Markus

Vertessomlo, Hungary
Fossil ammonites
Nomarski Interference Contrast, Image Stitching
10x (Objective Lens Magnification)

Dr. Ana T. Nogueira, Dr. Shiqiong Hu, Dr. Jesse Aaron & Dr. Takashi Watanabe

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Department of Pharmacology
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
Actin cytoskeleton of macrophages during frustrated (artificial) phagocytosis
iPALM - Interferometric Photoactivated Localization Microscopy
60x (Objective Lens Magnification)

Andrey Semenenko

Kharkiv, Ukraine
Blend of dried ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) and sugar
Light Microscopy
5x (Objective Lens Magnification)

Jan van IJken

Jan van IJken Photography & Film
Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands
Licmophora flabellata
(Colonial diatoms)
Darkfield, Focus Stacking
20x (Objective Lens Magnification)

Ji Yuan

World Expo Museum
Shanghai, China
Alcides orontes
(moth) wing
Focus Stacking
20x (Objective Lens Magnification)

Justin Zoll

Justin Zoll Photography
Ithaca, New York, USA
Crystallized amino acids L-glutamine and beta-alanine
Polarized Light
4x (Objective Lens Magnification)

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