What is Science Art?

What is Science Art?

  • Why are we engaging in science art?
  • How is science art made?
  • Science art example
  • What are zebrafish?
  • What microscopes do you use?

Science and art are often considered independent and separate disciplines. However, if you consider the beautiful anatomical sketches by Leonardo Da Vinci or the optical illusions by M. C. Escher, it is evidently clear that science and art both inspire and complement each other.

Now, more than ever, scientists and artists are further establishing new genres of science art by carefully considering composition, tonality, and style. Social media has also made this art easily accessible and breath-taking images can be seen using the hashtag #SciArt or #FluorescenceFriday on Twitter.


Example Image: Macrophage Migration 02


Why are we engaging in science art?

Science art acts as a gateway into the world of microscopic imagery and visualisation. This allows the viewer to experience and engage with science without the need of a technical background. Science art also acts as a vehicle to inspire, not only the non-scientific community to connect with science, but the next generation of scientists to try new things and move beyond the typical approaches of data visualization.

“In addition to conveying information, science communication is also pivotal to inspiring curiosity. Science is not the boring cliché of pipettes and test tubes, but colorful, exciting and stimulating; this is best exemplified when looking at fluorescent microscopy to image data of cells smaller than a single spider silk strand and following their development over days.” – Elisabeth Kugler in doi: 10.1242/dev.199942


How is science art made?

At Zeeks, we employ cutting-edge microscopy techniques to capture intricate details of the natural world. Our data acquisition process involves utilizing advanced and high-value microscopes worth approximately half a £500.000. These sophisticated instruments allow us to obtain 3D images using a series of 2D photos, akin to the principles of an MRI scan. It is important to note that all the data we gather has been actively utilized in research endeavours.

To extract the fascinating features of interest, our team combines a comprehensive understanding of biology with expertise in image processing. This multidisciplinary approach is essential to unveil the hidden wonders concealed within the captured data.

In our recent projects, we have delved into the mesmerizing world of developing zebrafish embryos. By selectively staining individual and groups of cells within the eyes, we enhance the visibility of these cells under the microscope. Once the 2D photos of the three-dimensional tissue are obtained, our skilled team employs advanced image processing techniques to create stunning pieces of art.

Witness the convergence of science and art at Zeeks as we transform complex microscopy data into captivating visual masterpieces. Explore our collections and immerse yourself in the beauty revealed through the synergy of technology and artistic expression.


Science art example:

To put all this into context, let us look at the 6 images below. These images show retinal support cells of the eye of a developing zebrafish embryo at different stages of processing. The data were acquired with the Zeiss LSM 900 AiryScan microscope, using a 40x water-immersion LD C-Apochromat (NA 1.1) objective. Processing was conducted using Zeiss ZenBlack and Fiji.

In the first green image, the original 3D data are shown in 2D, so we can establish a feeling for the data (i.e. their orientation and quality). For the second image, the 3D data were rotated and cropped using specific code. We then applied a filter (similar to filters found on smartphones) to show the intensity of the image (i.e. orange is bright, purple is dark). In the third image, we altered the image again so that the retinal support cells and background are easily identified. Here, the retina cells black, and the background is white. In the fourth image, we only keep the surface of the 3D extracted cells. In images five and six, we use so-called “depth-coding” where different colours indicate distance from the viewer (i.e. depth into the tissue, white is closer to the viewer and blue is further away) and experiment with different colour palettes. Experimenting with different colour palettes and compositions is crucial to emphasize the focus points of the image and lead the viewer through the data.

The cells that we studied are often less than 10 micrometre thick. This is less than a spider silk strand. The resulting images are often in the range of about 100 micrometre high or wide, which is 1/10 of a millimetre or 1/7 of credit card thickness.

screenshot showing the artistic process of converting a microscopy image to science art


What are zebrafish?

Zebrafish, originally from South Asia, are captivating freshwater fish that have found their way into pet stores and home aquariums due to their widespread availability. However, their significance extends far beyond their popularity as pets. These remarkable creatures serve as invaluable allies for scientists seeking to unravel the complexities of human development, health, and disease. Moreover, zebrafish play a pivotal role in large-scale drug screens aimed at identifying groundbreaking therapeutics.

Despite their diminutive size, with adult fish comparable to matchsticks and larvae even smaller than a matchstick tip, zebrafish possess extraordinary capabilities that make them an ideal model organism. Scientists harness the unique characteristics of zebrafish to gain insights into the fundamental processes underlying human biology.

At Zeeks, we celebrate the remarkable potential of zebrafish in scientific exploration. Through our captivating artwork, we aim to showcase the beauty and significance of these tiny aquatic marvels. Explore our collections and embark on a journey of discovery, where the world of zebrafish illuminates the intricacies of life itself.

Find out more here.


What microscopes do we use?

You might have seen or used a microscope like this before:

Image: Pawel Czerwinski from Unsplash

These microscopes are excellent and are used extensively throughout the world to answer many scientific and medical questions. However, for our work in studying and imaging zebrafish, we require microscopes that are more technical and versatile. All the images that you see on our website were acquired with microscopes like these:

 Photo of AiryScan microscope with laser unit and computer screen,      Photo of a light sheet fluorescence microscope with laser unit and computer screen,

Images: AiryScan and Light Sheet Fluorescence Microscope c/o by © ZEISS Microscopy

These are highly specialized microscopes, called AiryScan or light sheet fluorescence microscope, respectively.

As you can see, these microscopes are much bigger. They are equipped with lasers, filters, incubation, and state-of-the-art computers are needed to operate them. They are often seen in scientific research laboratories and require in-depth training to be competently used.