Guardian of the Galaxy powers to victory in art competition

17 January 2023



A new Guardian of the Galaxy has been found deep inside the brain with its superpowers helping it steal the limelight in the 2022 QBI Art in Neuroscience Image Competition.

Dr Belal Shohayeb won first prize in the annual scientific art competition for a stunning overlay of identical neurons entitled ‘Neuronal Galaxy Guardian’.

The judging panel – which included experts from Jan Murphy Gallery and Philip Bacon Galleries – said the image encapsulated the research conducted at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI).

“It appears to be about electricity, the light of the internal universe of the brain,” the judges said.

“It is exciting and elegant simultaneously and brings together the idea of art and science merging beautifully

“A thing of real beauty, wonderful colour sense and use of natural patterning.”

Dr Shohayeb said the competition allowed him to merge two of his creative passions.

“It was a great pleasure winning this award, a meeting point between science and art,” he said.

Neuronal Galaxy Guardian by Dr Belal Shohayeb
Neuronal Galaxy Guardian by Dr Belal Shohayeb.

Matthew Van De Poll and Dr Dinis Gokaydin took out second place with the light-hearted ‘Little Fly, Big Screen’.

The image shows a model fruit fly watching a movie projected on a screen with a system developed to present visual stimuli.

The fruit fly helps researchers investigate the impacts of sleep, anaesthesia and consciousness.

“This work is enormously arresting and amusing,” the judging panel said.

“It is a terrifically clever representation of a fruit fly being self-aware.

“The work is structured brilliantly and is a great example of what is achievable with digital photography.”

Mr Van de Poll said the award was a pleasant shock.

“I was very surprised that my humorous little mock-up of a fly in a cinema was able to win second place, especially given the excellent field of competition,” he said.

Little Fly, Big Screen by Matthew Van De Poll and Dr Dinis Gokaydin
Little Fly, Big Screen by Matthew Van De Poll and Dr Dinis Gokaydin.

Third place was awarded to Alison Carlisle for the abstract-inspired image ‘The inner nebula of microglia’.

The entry depicts the complex and dynamic network of proteins within microglial cells and provides a glimpse into their inner workings as the immune sentinels of our brains.

The judges said the piece gave a “real feeling of the inside of a nebula”.

“This work is moody and evocative, you could easily become lost in its dark recesses,” the judges said.

“There is a beautiful balance to its composition backed up with a strong colour sense and placement.”

Miss Carlisle said the image captured her passion for finding the beauty within her research.

“I have always loved searching for art in neuroscience, especially in microscopy images and the beautiful biology that they reveal,” she said.

The inner nebula of microglia by Alison Carlisle
The inner nebula of microglia by Alison Carlisle.

Finally, Miss Vanshika Raman was a clear fan favourite after taking out the People’s Choice Award with her image ‘Tree of life’.

In the image, Miss Raman depicts how Vitamin D provides a beneficial boost to the brain by transforming dopaminergic neurons into trees.

Tree of life by Vanshika Raman
Tree of life by Vanshika Raman.

The QBI Art in Neuroscience Competition is an annual competition to inspire the creativity of our researchers and capture mystery and beauty of their scientific discoveries.