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Winners of the Medical Research Foundation’s second Festive Science Image Competition, run in partnership with the Medical Research Council (MRC), were announced on Tuesday. Three winners were selected, with one researcher from the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences (NDCN) winning the second place and two researchers from the Department of Oncology were highly commended.

Christmas trees © Nick Gatford, Nathalie Lovgren and Iain Tullis

This annual competition is run in partnership with the Medical Research Council (MRC) and invites MRC-funded researchers, staff, and students to produce a science image with direct relevance to medical research, combined with a festive theme. The competition's judges, who work in science, medical research, communications, and public engagement, were looking for eye-catching, high-quality images, along with a clear explanation for non-scientific audiences.

Three winners were selected this year, with  Nick Gatford a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in the Tofaris lab at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences (NDCN) winning second place for his entry 'O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree, how lovely are your dendrites!'.

Christmas tree made of dopaminergic neurons generated from human stem cells

'This image shows dopaminergic neurons generated from human stem cells,' says Nick,  'Dopaminergic neurons are the main cell type that deteriorates in Parkinson's disease. We use these cells to understand neurodegeneration and develop new drugs to slow their degeneration. The findings from such experiments will provide new Parkinson's disease treatments.' The image was acquired using a super-resolution microscope 'consisting of multiple tiles stitched together, showing a large area of neuronal connections'.


Nathalie Lovgren DPhil student and Iain Tullis Senior Postdoctoral Researcher, both from the Department of Oncology were highly commended for their entry 'Starry Winter Night'. 

"Radiotherapy is one of the main methods used to treat cancer,” say Nathalie and Iain.Christmas tree made through exposed FLASH radiation“FLASH radiotherapy is anemerging technique offering the same damage to tumours as standard radiotherapy, whilst potentially reducing side effects. "A tree of lead, attached to a water flask, were both exposed to FLASH radiation,” Nathalie and Iain explain. “The dazzling image resembles the starry nights bringing us light during the cold winter months. The lead blocks most of the radiation, and the colour specs are due to the radiation interacting with the camera sensor. ."


The first-place image, by Michaela Raab, PhD student at the MRC Human Genetics Unit, University of Edinburgh, will feature on the Medical Research Foundation and MRC's joint Season's Greetings card for 2023.

Congratulations to the winners!