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UGA scientist wins international Wellcome Image Award

Stefan Eberhard was recognized recently for his outstanding microscope image of an Arabidopsis thaliana flower

Athens, Ga. – Stefan Eberhard, a research professional in the University of Georgia’s Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, was recognized recently for his outstanding microscope image at the 2014 Wellcome Trust Image Awards in London, an international competition celebrating the best in science imaging talent and techniques.

His winning image, taken with a scanning electron microscope, features an extraordinarily detailed close-up of an Arabidopsis thaliana flower, commonly known as thale cress.

“The beauty of the scanning electron microscope is that images look three dimensional and have a tremendous depth of field,” Eberhard said. “It gives you a better sense of what things really look like.”

His image shows the reproductive components of a single flower. The blue feathery structure in the center is the stigma, which receives the pollen to initiate the fertilization process. The stigma is surrounded by yellowish anthers, two of which have opened to reveal the small pollen grains ready for dispersal.

The original image produced by the microscope is in black and white, but Eberhard added the vibrant colors with photo editing software to make it easier for viewers to distinguish the flower components and for a more aesthetic appeal.

“You have to be very patient when taking images with a (scanning electron microscope) like this, because it requires a lot of preparation,” he said. “It’s not like taking a snapshot, and sometimes it can take hours to get things just right.”

Eighteen winners were chosen by seven judges for the 2014 competition, and their images were displayed across the United Kingdom at four major science centers as well as in a window display at the Wellcome Trust’s headquarters in London.

Eberhard has maintained a passion for photography for more than 20 years. In addition to his microscopy, he devotes much of his free time composing and editing images of landscapes, live music concerts, abstract subjects and plant life.

“I am tremendously honored to receive such a prestigious award,” Eberhard said. “There were a lot of wonderful submissions, so I’m humbled to be recognized.”

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. Independent of both political and commercial interests, the Trust supports biomedical research, medical humanities, public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health.

For more information about the competition and to see all the winning submissions, see