Intriguing scientific insights

Die ausgezeichneten Bilder

The winners of the 2021 SNSF Scientific Image Competition offer a fresh look at cutting-edge research, from COVID-19 to the study of volcanoes, from churches to alpine geography. The public have also chosen their favourites among the images submitted over the last five years.

​​​​​The works singled out by the jury of the 2021 SNSF Scientific Image Competitionshow both the variety of top-flight research being conducted in Switzerland and its aesthetic aspects, from the unsettling image of a lung ravaged by COVID-19 to a breathtaking view of a basilica, the multicoloured gut of a household pest, an abstract rendering of Alpine roots and the three-dimensional reconstruction of a gulag.

The COVID-19 epidemic may have disrupted the daily lives of researchers, but it has not diminished their interest in scientific imaging: 422 images were submitted to the competition organised by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).

Poetic interpretation of data

The jury awarded the first prize in the "Object of study" category to a visualisation of lungs ravaged by COVID-19 created by Eloisa Aldomar of Zurich University of the Arts. The work represents a "sensitive translation of data" with great educational potential, the jury said.

Lukas Munz of the University of Bern captured the top prize in the "Women and men of science" category for his photograph of a colleague taken with a spyglass high in the mountains. According to the jury, the image's "strong framing" underscores "the importance of mutual trust" in extreme research environments.

Valentin Rime of the University of Fribourg triumphed in the "Locations and instruments" category with a spectacular photograph of a volcanic crater with a tiny observation drone hovering above it. Achieved with the help of a second drone, this frame-within-a-frame won over the members of the jury.

The visualisation of a basilica created from 2000 laser scans is the winner in the "Video loop" category. In the words of the jury, this work, submitted by Louis Vandenabeele of ETH Zurich, "provides an enormous amount of information in a very condensed way".

In addition to the winning prizes, the jury also awarded eleven distinctions in the different categories.

A forest of neurons is a crowd-pleaser

To celebrate the fifth anniversary of the competition, the SNSF also invited the public to choose their favourite image and video from the more than 2000 entries submitted over the past five years. The public voted on a pre-selection made by students of the professional graphic design class at the School of Design Bern and Biel.

The image that won the public vote is a dizzying visualisation of a forest of neurons made in 2017 by a computer simulation of a rodent's brain – a work by Nicolas Antille, EPFL. The public's favourite video shows the elegant jumps of a small primate. The video also received one of this year's distinctions. It is a work by Daniel Huber, from the University of Geneva.

Free access to all images

All the entries to the competition are available in an online gallery on Flickr. They can be used for non-commercial purposes by the public and the media as long as the author is attributed (Creative Commons licence).

This year's winning images and videos will be on display at the Biel/Bienne Festival of Photography from 7 to 30 May 2021. The awards ceremony will take place later.​

The jury for 2021

The jury is chaired by Irène Hediger, director, artists-in-labs programme, Zurich University of the Arts. The other members of the jury are as follows:

  • Pauline Fer, designer, Kossmanndejong (Netherlands)
  • Emmanuel Ferrand, mathematician, Sorbonne University (France)
  • Jens Hauser, curator (Denmark)
  • Lars Lindemann, director of photography, Geo magazine (Germany)