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Inaugural Images of Research competition illuminates the breadth and diversity of the NTU research community

A striking image capturing the structures of drying droplets was named winner, submitted by Dr Kyle Baldwin, a Senior Lecturer and researcher in Physics, School of Science and Technology

The Structures of Drying Droplets. Courtesy of Dr Kyle Baldwin
The Structure of Drying Droplets. Courtesy of Dr Kyle Baldwin

In May 2019 NTU launched its first Images of Research competition. This inaugural competition offered researchers across the university the chance to share their research using a single image – either a photograph, digital image or piece of artwork - along with an engaging short description.

The competition was designed to showcase the breadth of research at NTU, illustrating the diversity of both the individuals involved in research, from PhD students and early career researchers to established academics, and in terms of the research areas. The ultimate aim was to engage non-specialists in NTU’s research landscape, and to capture the essence of our complex research projects in an accessible manner.

The competition was a resounding success with over sixty entries submitted overall. The judging panel comprised Professor Nigel Wright, Deputy Vice-Chancellor – Research and Innovation, Penny Eccles, Director of Marketing and Communications, and Charles Fox, Lecturer in Photography in the School of Art & Design. They made their decisions, and announced the awards at a celebration event on Thursday 31 October, during which the exhibition of all submissions was unveiled in Newton.

Dr Kyle Baldwin, Senior Lecturer in Physics in the School of Science and Technology, was named winner for his submission ‘The Structure of Drying Droplets’. Two runners up – Laxmi Aggerwal, Postgraduate Researcher in the School of Social Sciences, and Allan Njanji, Postgraduate Researcher in the School of Arts and Humanities – were also recognised on the evening. Laxmi was additionally named winner of the Public Vote, gaining almost 25% of the 689 votes.

Professor Nigel Wright and Dr Kyle Baldwin at the celebration event
Professor Nigel Wright and Dr Kyle Baldwin at the celebration event

Kyle told us: “My research is broadly in the field of soft matter physics: the behaviour and motion of things that flow. I did my PhD at NTU in drying droplets, in particular studying a droplet system that does the opposite of what most other liquids do when they dry: form a ring-stain. More than just fascinating, sometimes the patterns that spontaneously appeared would be incredibly striking, and that has stuck with me ever since. After some time at a couple of different institutions, I am now back at NTU in SOFT group, where one of the areas of research being undertaken is using these visually striking drying-induced patterns as a means of diagnosing certain diseases in blood. So not only does this field touch upon the technical challenge of printing, but also as a tool for biomedical or forensic analysis!”

He continued: “Winning the award was a pleasant surprise! During my time in researching droplet drying I’ve been continuously impressed - astounded even - by the patterns I’ve watched form under the microscope. And yet, I’ve also always been aware that being so enamoured with something as obscure as droplet drying makes me a bit of an oddball. Explaining my PhD research to my friends at the pub was always a challenge! Despite my surprise, I’m happy that the image was as striking to others as it was to me, and that I was able to demonstrate how beautiful something so boring sounding can be. Maybe I’m not such an oddball after all!”

Laxmi, whose research explores recommendations to mitigate illegal ivory markets using the Market Reduction Approach, told us: "Photography helps people to feel and understand from the subject's perspective. The elephant in the picture conveys a lot more than I could have in words. I am grateful to have had the chance to capture this image by being at the right place at the right time and for the chance to present my research in a different way where the elephant and its ivory tell their own story."

Allan, whose research takes a critical look at the UK mainstream media's representation of refugees and asylum seekers from the time Brexit was announced in 2016 to the present day, told us: "Being recognised like this at the start of my PhD degree was a huge surprise and a big confidence boost.  I hope that this will spur me on to continue to work hard, and make a positive effect on the lives of refugees."

Explore all the entries here.

Published on 6 November 2019
  • Category: Research; School of Science and Technology