Despite the struggles of the pandemic, around 800 pupils from nine schools across Cambridge, Peterborough and Bedfordshire participated in this year’s Science Image Award with some impressive entries. The competition is part of the LMB’s Microscopes4Schools (M4S) science outreach programme which aims to encourage scientific curiosity in children by connecting the microscopic world to the children’s everyday lives. Lead scientists Simon Bullock and Jon Howe have worked with the LMB Public Engagement team to expand this opportunity to a wider selection of schools, particularly in areas where fewer children go on to pursue higher education.
Each school borrows a hand-held digital microscope for two weeks and children take images of biological samples that they have collected. Objects range from insect wings to plant petals. After the children have used the microscopes, schools submit their top ten images to the competition. These images are anonymised and judged on their quality and originality by Brad Amos, an emeritus scientist at the LMB. The prizes were then awarded in virtual ceremonies hosted by Simon and Jon.
This year’s First Prize went to Duxford Community Church of England Primary School for their image of a Pansy. The school has won a digital microscope kindly donated by the competition sponsors, Brunel Microscopes Ltd. Brad Amos described the winning photo saying, “In macrophotography it is easy to capture detail and hard to make a good composition. This photo is unusual in being superb in both respects.”
Duxford School also took Second Prize for their image of Flower Buds. For this, the school received ten wooden microscopes donated by Echo. Brad described this image as “A very clever selection: the plant buds…are beautifully captured.”
Winhills Primary Academy won Third Prize for their Beetle image and will receive five wooden Echo microscopes. This was described by Brad as, “…brilliantly lit to show the shining tubercles on the cuticle of this beetle.”
Close runners-up were Purple Nettle from Histon & Impington Brook Primary School and Feather from Arbury Primary School. The runners-up had the opportunity to virtually ‘Meet the Scientists’ and ask Simon and Jon questions about many aspects of science, including careers as scientists.
The programme has been well-received by students and teachers alike.
Sarah Joomun, a teacher at Arbury Primary School, commented “We loved having the microscope in school. It created a real buzz and we would love to be part of any other science-based outreach programmes in the future.”
The shortlisted images from all schools are now available to view on our website. We are renaming the award as the Microscopes4Schools Competition and recruiting schools to begin in early 2022.