Art of Research Winners

Explore the 2023 Art of Research competition winners below. Work is also on display at the Buffalo Museum of Science throughout the month of May. 

Grand Prize

Hashtag Activism: How Can We Be Heard? Visualizing the power of voice across 6,792 miles in the #TaiwanCanHelp campaign.

Kuei-Chun Liu
Graduate Student
Communication (PhD), College of Arts and Sciences

This is the visualization of hashtag activism via the #TaiwanCanHelp campaign, which called for the international community's attention and support for Taiwan's inclusion in the World Health Organization during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The graph above illustrates how Twitter users around the world shaped digital allyship by retweeting the hashtag and related message #TaiwanCanHelp. The diffusion of the campaign's online network connected users worldwide from 133 different countries, comprising up to 23,715 Twitter users, and contributing a corpus of 121,711 tweets published between Feb. 9 and May 2, 2020.

Seen here, the network comprises several overlapping clusters, showing the variety and diversity of Twitter users who engaged the campaign by retweeting #TaiwanCanHelp. We employed the Louvain clustering technique to detect the dividing sub-community (Blondel et al., 2008) to understand the natural structure of the retweet networks, which are represented by various colors in the graph above, emphasizing the connection fostered between Twitter users across the globe.

Analyzing hashtag activism allows us to understand the power of digital communication in bridging cultural, language, and distance related barriers when fostering a movement that sought to aid the international community during a global health crisis. Every cluster displays the wiring of digital voices within the social network via individual threads, which subsequently comprises a single voice traveling thousands of miles, thus linking people around the world and representing the way collective action via hashtag activism bridges physical distance to create interactive virtual communities that bring all voices to the table.

Judge's Choice

Nature's Artistry Award

Rain Over Great Sand Dunes

Brandon Keim
Graduate Student
Geological Sciences (PhD), College of Arts and Sciences

This photo was taken at Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado. The ancient lake deposits are blown by prevailing winds to form the tallest sand dunes in North America at the base of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. The 'fingers' of rain never reach the dunes - the climate is dry enough that it evaporates before it makes it to the ground.  

Most Active Still

Particulate Matters. What are we breathing?

Maria Clara Pelligrini and John Archilla
Graduate Students
Architecture (MS), School of Architecture and Planning

Particle Matters is an experiment to visualize our studio space holographically with a phenomenon that is imperceivable. We chose to work with air particles and Particulate Matter. But what does it mean Particulate Matter? Tiny particles of solids or liquids that are spread in the air and that depending on their sizes can cause different health problems.

To begin we used a Particulate Matter sensor and an Arduino board to gather data in the space and then began to create simulations in holographic spaces of the different particulate matter sizes and the air flows from sources that directly generated them. Upon gathering data on these activities, we discovered that the Architecture Academic setting is actually quite unhealthy for students. To emphasize the importance of this point and to make sure the information was conveyed accurately to others, we added these visuals to the holographic interactive drawing so people could experience the phenomenon of particulate matter in a space.

Even though the location of this project is an Architecture Studio, it can be translated into other spaces with different activities. We believe it is a good and interactive way of learning and raising awareness about how this Particulate Matter can impact into our bodies.

Most Socially Impactful

Diskarte Lang! Everyday life of Discarded Bodies in Philippine Prisons

Hannah Glimpse Nario-Lopez
Graduate Student
Sociology (PhD), College of Arts and Sciences

In a courtyard, no bigger than a basketball court, 4000 persons deprived of liberty share space initially intended for only 800 persons. Such overcrowding has been the most stable aspect of Philippine prisons, even more heightened by the "All-Out-War" on drugs pronounced by the past presidency. Many were caught or surrendered out of fear of being shot in front of their families at the peak of the Duterete regime. This photo depicts the subhuman conditions in Philippine jails and prisons as a pressing concern because of its ill effects in the delivery of rehabilitative justice. While many factors are actively contributing  to the wekness of Philippine criminal justice process, there is a notion that looking into the administrative side of prisons and the role of jail officers oversimplifies the problem and overemphasizes the clout of prison regimes. This photo, taken from the view of a jail guard, came from a fieldwork study titled: "Diskarte Lang! Diskarte Lang Dealing with Operational Challenges in a Philippine City Jail" published in Social Transformations: Journal of the Global South in 2021. The paper argues an alternative view that even though officers bear authority through their badges, their command over the facility is confronted, challenged, and negotiated by detainees amidst structural deficiencies. Using qualitative methodology and grounded theory, covering data gathered for three and a half years, I discuss officers' standard routines and techniques in dealing with the order and disorder of jail life. I take the reader toward a custodial venture employed by officers-a route they call "pag-didiskarte" (resourceful strategizing). I conclude with a critical assessment that though "pag-didiskarte" is valued by officers as a permissive relational strategy, it is unsustainable and poses further occupational hazards. I recommend that the country's jail system can be better managed if officers' unprioritized, unheard, demonized subjectivities are included in criminal justice development.

Most Dramatic

mirth shorn: choreographic research exploring characterization and storytelling

Natasha McCandless
Graduate Student
Theatre and Dance (MFA), College of Arts and Sciences

Inspired by Grendel from the Beowulf myth, this choreographic work explores the question: What does it mean to be a monster? My research began with gathering language that describes Grendel throughout Tolkien's translation of the epic poem. A quote that was particularly inspiring, "a man-shape journeying of men's mirth shorn," led me to the idea of investigating the idea of a monster's self-image. In my movement research, this translated to finding ways to characterize the physicality of this monster and creating a clear storytelling arc from the beginning to end of the dance. Additionally, choosing sound to craft a clear world of the story and collaborating with a lighting designer (Andrew DG Hunt) provided important support for the performance. This photograph (taken by Ken Smith) captures a moment of movement, displaying my embodiment of this character and demonstrating the culminating performance of my choreographic research. 

Most Artistic Data Transformation

Rub Your Eyes - "A Databending Collage"

Jesse Rodkin
Graduate Student
Media Study (MFA), College of Arts and Sciences

Rub Your Eyes is an example of a process that has been in development for the past 4 years, turning multiple layers of digital imagery into a single rendering through audio based editing. Various original photographs (in this image's case, 9) are converted into raw data to be read by Audacity, a program designed for the sonic, not the visual. The images are given nearly duplicate metadata where applicable, and carefully blended, interwoven, and adjusted using sound editing and sound filters before final touchups,, neatening, and mitigating of some heavy compression and artifcating are finalized in Photoshop.

This is an advancement of a well-known process called "data-bending," where single images are imported into Audacity (read as raw sound data), edited as if it was a audible track, then exported with seemingly infinite generative potential differences. Data-bending however uses a single source image as its template, which then gets manipulated.  

The skull-ish, sort-of-a-face you see here was originally a photograph of Larry David!

Most Compelling Microscopic Image

Rearing Bristlebot

Aditya Chivate
Graduate Student
Industrial and Systems Engineering (PhD), School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

The 3D printed millibot depicted in the image is a remarkable technological achievement. This tiny robot, which is only 1/5th the size of a penny and weighs less than 10 mg, can be actuated by both magnetic and acoustic fields. Such a device could find many applications in a wide range of industries, particularly in media transport in complex locations.

One of the key advantages of this millibot is its size. Its small form factor means that it can navigate through very small spaces, making it ideal for use in hard-to-reach areas. Additionally, the fact that it can be actuated by magnetic and acoustic fields means that it can be controlled remotely, which could be particularly useful in hazardous environments.

Furthermore, the fact that this robot is 3D printed means that it can be easily customized and adapted to different environments and applications. This could be particularly useful in fields such as medicine, where the robot could be used to deliver drugs to specific locations within the body.

Overall, this 3D printed millibot represents a significant step forward in the development of miniature robots. Its potential applications are vast, and it could play an important role in many different industries in the years to come.

Most Polychromatic

Paint with all the colors of a glacier

Sophie Goliber
Postdoctoral Scholar
Geological Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences

The Landsat 8 Satellite collects spectral information of the Earth's surface in 11 spectral bands, each spanning a different segment of the electromagnetic spectrum. The aim of conventional cameras is to capture the world as our eyes see  it, so they sense in the red, green, and blue wavelengths. Landsat can recreate the surface of the Earth to include to infrared wavelengths, which allow us to detect changes we cannot normally observe optically. In order to visualize these other wavelengths so our eyes can see them, we replace the Red, Green, or Blue channels in an image.

In this suite of images, different band combinations of Helheim glacier in Southwest Greenland are shown. Relative brightness and color in each of these images is due to the surfaces ability to reflect or absorb whatever wavelengths are included in each band composite. A true color or RGB image is located in the top left for comparison. 

All of this data is free and publicly available. 

Landsat 8 Band combinations in increasing order, starting in the top-left corner: 432, 546, 676, 675, 615, 576, 652, 564, 416

Best 3D Rendering

Colors for Doctors: AI Tools for Rapid and Informative Brain Vessel Assessment

Tatsat Rajendra Patel, Munjal Shah and Sricharan Veeturi
Postdoctoral Scholars
Neurosurgery, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Stroke is a phenomenon wherein the blood pumped by the heart fails to reach certain parts of the brain. This is a deadly condition that claims more than 6.5 million lives every year. Of the individuals who survive, the vast majority are faced with lifelong disability or paralysis. Thus, timely treatment is paramount to prevent death and improve quality of life. As soon as a patient experiencing stroke symptoms is admitted to the hospital, they undergo a brain scan, such as a computered tomography (CT) or medical resonance (MR) imaging so doctors can observe the severity and location in the brain where the stroke is occurring. However, currently available techniques are non-intuitive and give limited answers. 

Our research leverages the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and image processing to give doctors a better visualization of the brain vessels and the blood flowing through them. Generally, medical images like CT or MRI are stacks of 2D pictures, which gives the doctors limited understanding of the 3D vessels in the brain. We use AI to transform these 2D pictures into a 3D model of the brain vessels which can help the doctors in better visualization. In addition to this 3D rendering, we also use image analysis and blood flow simulations to estimate the blood flowing through the vessels and pinpoint potential stroke locations which can help the doctors make faster and accurate decisions, thus helping to save patient lives.

People's Choice

Duality of Cardiac Fibroblasts in Heart Health and Disease: Beneficial or Detrimental?

Tyler Rolland
Graduate Student
Physiology and Biophysics, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Cardiac fibroblasts are cells within the heart that play a crucial role in maintaining structural integrity and proper organ function. In a healthy heart, small spindle-shaped cardiac fibroblasts persist in a quiescent state (indicated by the white "*"), waiting for cues to become activated. This activation can occur rapidly following an injury to the heart, such as a myocardial infarction ("heart attack"), upon which cardiac fibroblasts proliferate and produce extracellular matrix proteins, including alpha-smooth muscle actin (αSMA; green) and fibronectin (red), to help repair the damaged tissue (white "#"). The deposited matrix proteins provide structural support and help stabilize the damaged area, thereby maintaining the heart's structural integrity and preventing deterioration of cardiac function. While this pattern of cardiac fibroblast activation is beneficial after injury, certain adverse stimuli can elicit inappropriate activation of fibroblasts, leading to excessive secretion of extracellular matrix proteins, formation of scar tissue, and an increase in the mass of the heart. The development of scar tissue leads to stiffening of the heart chambers, which interferes with normal cardiac function by compromising the heart's ability to efficiently fill with blood between beats. These structural changes may also compromise the reparative response to subsequent cardiac stressors, potentially leading to an increased risk of heart failure. Thus, depending on the situation, activation of cardiac fibroblasts can be either beneficial or detrimental to the heart. In the short term, their activation is essential in the repair process following a heart attack, but in the long term, it can contribute to the development of heart failure. Consequently, research designed to improve our understanding of factors that regulate cardiac fibroblast behavior is essential to understand the natural reparative capabilities of the heart, as well as identifying potential therapeutic targets to optimize cardiac health across the lifespan.