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Scene at MIT: In a stroke of lightning, the beauty of nature and architecture

Postdoc Michele Gabriele, who loves imaging nature at all scales, turns a rained out road trip into an epic photo op.
Lightning streaks across the evening sky over the MIT Stata Center
Lightning streaks across the evening sky over the MIT Stata Center on June 30, 2021.
Photo: Michele Gabriele

“I started my postdoc in February 2020. Despite my short time enjoying life at MIT, I immediately learned how lively it was at the Stata Center! It is an architectural landmark of modernity and a center of aggregation for students and employees. It is a special place, and I thought it deserved a special picture.

I work in biological engineering studying chromatin conformation with super-resolution microscopy. So I am very passionate about picturing the world, from DNA molecules to spectacular landscapes! I also like challenges, and I noticed that in the Boston area, thunderstorms are relatively rare, and storms blow very fast. It is challenging to capture them, especially with the composition you have in mind. I had already tried few times to take this picture I had in mind, but I was not satisfied.

Recently I was monitoring the weather carefully since I was planning a small road trip to enjoy the beauty of New England. I then realized I had to cancel my trip because severe thunderstorms had been predicted, which are not very friendly for driving — but perfect for photography! While I was taking microscopy recordings, I realized a potential thunderstorm would have crossed my workplace. So without hesitation, and despite the rain, I biked home to get my camera gear, and I came back to the lab, from where I have a beautiful sight of the Stata Center. The conclusion is that I was taking photographs both of microscopic and gigantic natural phenomena at the same time! It was such a rewarding day.”

—Michele Gabriele, postdoc in the Department of Biological Engineering

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