University of Dundee

CLS Scientist wins prize in the 2010 Nikon International Small World Photomicrography Competition

14 Oct 2010

Dr. Paul Andrews’ image of HeLa Cells Dividing is one of the 20 winners of the 2010 Nikon International Small World Photomicrography Competition. 

Paul’s image won 11th prize in this international competition between the world's best photo-micrographers involved in critical scientific research into life sciences, bio-research and materials science. Small World is regarded as the leading forum for showcasing the beauty and complexity of life as seen through the light microscope.

View prize winning entry:

Dr. Paul Andrews is Senior Scientist at the Drug Discovery Unit at CLS and has spent years producing aesthetically-refined, scientific images that capture the imagination. He is also interested in promoting photo-micrography within life sciences and coordinated the 2009 Visions of Discovery image competition, showcasing medical research at the University of Dundee. Paul is the joint holder of the 2010 Brian Cox Award for Public Engagement.

The Nikon International Small World Competition first began in 1974 as a means to recognize and applaud the efforts of those involved with photography through the light microscope. Since then, Small World has become a leading showcase for photo-micrographers from the widest array of scientific disciplines.

The two main criteria for the competition are a photomicrograph that is both:

  • a technical document that can be of great significance to science or industry,  and 
  • an image whose structure, color, composition, and content is an object of beauty, open to several levels of comprehension and appreciation.

When asked if he considers himself an artist in addition to a scientist Paul said,

“I would like to think I had a visual flare or inclination, but wouldn't dare to assume the title of artist! I have, however, collaborated with several artists who work in 3D visualisation and also old-fashioned print making, which was very interesting.”

About the scientific significance of the prize-winning image he went on to say, “The stage of the cell division process you see is called cytokinesis where literally cells move apart and split to become two separate entities. In the image the cells’ internal components are revealed using dyes and fluorescent molecular tags. So, for example, the DNA has been detected using a blue fluorescence dye but using computer software it has been coloured white, so that the other three colours can be shown in this RGB image. Part of the mechanical skeleton of the cell (microtubules) is shown in red and other important signaling proteins I was studying are shown in green and blue. “ 

“This image was taken in the course of a study on cells I had made in which a green fluorescent version of a critical signaling protein called Aurora B protein kinase was expressed. Understanding the dynamic localisation of this protein is important to understand its function, which is needed for accurate chromosome segregation and is closely linked to cancer. Drugs designed to inhibit this enzyme are in clinical trials. “

Truly international in scope, entries for the competition have been received from the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, Latin America, Asia, and Africa across a broad range of subject matter from all types of light microscopy technique including: phase contrast, polarized light, fluorescence, interference contrast, darkfield, confocal, deconvolution, and mixed techniques.

Entries are judged by an independent panel of experts who are recognized authorities in the area of photomicrography and photography. The Judges for the 2010 contest were Jeremy Kaplan (Science & Technology Editor,, Betsy Mason (Science Editor,, Alison North (Director of the Bio-Imaging Resource Center and Assistant Professor, Rockefeller University) and Shirley Owens (Retired Confocal Lab Director at the Center for Advanced Microscopy, Michigan State University).

Paul’s prize-winning image and those of the other competition winners can be viewed at

Coverage of the competition and announcement of the winners can be found on the NBC’s Today Show, in National Geographic and the Telegraph.

More information on Paul’s scientific images, photography and design work can be found at