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The University of Southampton
Doctoral College

Getting your PhD Noticed: Researcher Image Competition 2018

Postgraduate researchers from all disciplines were invited to enter the 2018 Researcher Photography Competition and Exhibition to “Get your PhD Noticed.”

How would you get an image of your PhD on the front page? Many journals such as Nature or Science are known for the high quality of their front covers, highlighting the research within. Front covers are highly sought after as they can increase the take-up and citation rate of the research.

The goal of this competition was to give you the opportunity to come up with high quality and eye-catching photographs that make your PhD front-page news.

2018 Research Image Competition Entries

We are delighted to share with you this year's entries for the Research Image Competition.

The judges have deliberated and the People's Choice has closed and we have our winners...


Entry D
Entry D

Judges Winner

Theme: Weird and Wonderful


Sien van der Plank

Faculty of Engineering and the Environment

‘What Colour is a Coastal Defence?’

"Talk about coastal flood management and conversation quickly turns to groynes, sea walls and the Thames Flood Barrier. But coastal flood management in England includes so much more. Engineered coastal defences don’t have to be made out of grey slabs of Norwegian granite. Environmental scientists are getting involved in defences to add animal and plant friendly nooks and crannies to the slabs. Communities are getting involved, and your local sea wall might soon be made out of beach huts.

Coastal flood management today encompasses those traditional sea walls we imagine, but the beaches we visit in the summer are also part of the defence system, and the insurance on houses provides protection should a flood event occur after all. Effective, forward-thinking spatial planning can prevent further homes and holiday-parks from being developed on risky coastal floodplains or can ensure they’re designed to be able to take some flooding. Think: ground-floor car-parking, elevated plug sockets, household-level defences.

2.9 million People live in England coastal towns. To deal with the current risk of coastal flooding and the potential increased levels of future flooding (think climate change), we need to be innovative, we need to integrate the management approaches we already have, and we need to work together. Until coastal flood management is as colourful as Milford on Sea beach huts."

Entry H
Entry H

People's Choice Winner

Theme: Equipment and Facilities


Ilaria Sanzari                      

Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering         

‘Miniaturized Rose on Polydimethylsiloxane. Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) Image of PDMS Thin Layer after Oxygen Plasma Treatment.’

"Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) is an elastic material widely used in biology. However, in native state this material is hydrophobic and cells do not adhere properly on its surface. For this reason, before any application PDMS needs a chemical-modification. The most common treatment is plasma oxygen. It is generated by a high intensity electric field and is made by a mixture of charged ions and electrons. My work involves the fabrication of nanostructured substrates based on PDMS for cardiac cells stimulation.

During plasma exposure a silica-like layer can be formed on PDMS surface whose thickness depends on the time of exposure. Silica is stiffer than the beneath PDMS and cracks are formed because of the mismatch of the elasticity between the two layers. Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) is a technique that I used to study surface topography and it is interesting to discover changes in surface roughness at the micro and nanoscale.

During the analysis of a PDMS surface exposed to the plasma oxygen for 1 minute, I noticed cracks that formed a shape like rose. The incredible similarity with the rose spurred me to take an image for the contest. The image was taken at 10 Âμm x 10 Âμm scan size and it was not modified from the raw image.・

Entry F
Entry F

Runner Up - Judges Vote and People's Choice

Theme: Eureka and Discovery


Laszlo Penzes    

Faculty of Health Sciences                             

‘Nurse Burnout. Dealing with sudden death in Emergency Department is one of the factors.’

"The number of deaths within the Emergency Department at University Hospital Southampton, in the period 2013-2015, was almost 200 average every year. This means almost one death every second day. The causes of death include acute illness, an escalation of a long term condition as well as major trauma. While we can talk about preparing for a dignified death at home, in a hospice or hospital ward environment, the Emergency Department is not a destination for planned death. For the majority of patients who die in the Emergency Department, it is a sudden and unexpected event.

Research reveals that Emergency Department staff is exposed to burnout because of the following reasons: long shifts, putting others first, high stress environment and dealing with death. Emergency Department staff is trained to save lives and improve the medical condition of patients. Emergency Nurses, when facing unexpected death, can make them feel they’ve failed in their job, despite their efforts and good intentions. Understanding staff preparation and education for this role and the impact of death on them will empower us to better train and prepare them for such events.

Our findings will help thousands of healthcare professionals across UK to remain compassionate and avoid burnout."

Terms and Conditions

If you would like to discuss the competition further, please email Juliet Hasson at


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