Electrical engineering Ph.D. candidate Seth Coe-Sullivan never set out to become an artist, but one of his photographs recently took first place in an international contest sponsored by Nikon.
Coe-Sullivan found art one day when his microscope image of quantum dot nanocrystals revealed elaborate patterns instead of the flat films he was expecting. He showed the results to research colleagues John Kymissis and Sung-Hoon Kang of MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics, who suggested Coe-Sullivan enter the images in Nikon's Small World Photomicrography contest. The image took first prize, netting Coe-Sullivan some new Nikon camera equipment and publicity in USA Today.
An enlargement of the photograph will hang with the other 20 winning images in galleries throughout the U.S. during the month of January. A copy also will hang in a hallway of MIT's Building 13 near Coe-Sullivan's office, he said.
For 30 years, the contest has been honoring those who photograph the tiniest of subjects with the most vivid results using light microscopes. In the case of the prize-winning image, "each 'coffee bean' is about 100um in size, or the diameter of a piece of human hair," said Coe-Sullivan. Winners are judged on originality, information, technical proficiency and visual impact.
Coe-Sullivan is studying the uses of light emission from the quantum dots in devices such as light bulbs and cell phones. In an Oct. 7 article in USA Today that accompanied a reproduction of the prize-winning photograph, Coe-Sullivan credited the natural world for his unexpected success.
"The natural world is what created the art, much more than I did. I was just there to observe it," said Coe-Sullivan.
Photo / Seth Coe-Sullivan