These gilded branches are a closeup of a physical phenomenon in action. Crystals of creatine, a substance naturally produced by the body, were suspended in water. Their random, tiny movements in the fluid, called Brownian motion, lead to collisions, which create the wandering fractal patterns you see here.

This chemical closeup was magnified 150 times by science photographer and artist Karl Gaff. The colors were dictated in part by the subject: Where liquid meets crystal, surface tension prompts the water to form a meniscus, which bends light differently — leading to branches edged in blues or yellows.

Photographed here is the nucleation point of a thin crystalline film of ferrous sulphate as imaged in compensated polarisation microcopy.

Pictured is a colony of bell-shaped, ciliated protists attached to organic debris. Carlos Floyd et al. imaged and analyzed the kinematics of two ciliated protist species (Vorticella sp. and Spirostomum sp.) to model the fast, calcium ion-powered contractions of the protists’ myoneme protein assemblies. The resulting mathematical model reproduced experimental observations across species and demonstrated that myoneme contractions have three distinct operating regimes. The findings could provide insight into protozoan evolution and inform the development of fast, motile synthetic cells. See the article by Floyd et al., e2217737120.

2023 National Geographic

Chironomidae larvae are filter feeders and typically feed on algae and small organic particles in the water. They have a unique breathing system that involves a series of tube-like structures, known as "tracheae", which allow them to extract oxygen from the water. The tracheae are often visible as small, branching tubes that extend from the larva's body.

2023 Evident/Olympus Life Science Calendar

A selection of my scientific photographic microscopy artworks featured in the 2023 Olympus calendar. The photographs capture the intricate beauty of crystalline chemical films, plant tissues and plant reproductive structures.

The photograph on the left are not Tulips, but a thin crystalline film of potassium hexacyanoferrate captured through compensated polarisation microscopy using Olympus' Flagship X Line objectives.

The photograph on the right is not an artifical pattern made for a Hawaiin shirt, this is a thin crystalline film of sodium sulphate viewed through crossed polarisers.

On the left we see a section through the stem of a monocot plant, Zea Mays, commonly called Corn on the Cob. The image was captured using ultraviolet induced visible fluorescence (UVIVF) and shows a vascular bundle, a complex network of specialized cells that play a vital role in the transport of nutrients and water throughout the plant.

UVIVF of the heart-shaped indusium on the underside of a fern leaf. The indusium is a protective covering that surrounds the fern's sporangia, which are the structures responsible for producing and releasing spores.

2023 Royal Microscopy Society Calendar

The flower-like formation around a nucleation point in a thin crystalline film is a mesmerizing and intricate work of natural art. The nucleation point is where the crystal begins to form, and the resulting flower-like pattern is created as the crystal grows outward in a symmetrical manner. The petals of the flower are formed by the intricate and geometric arrangement of the crystalline structure, each one a precise and not-so perfectly formed facet of the crystal lattice - if it were perfect it would be smooth and featureless! The birefringence exhibited by the thin crystalline film adds a layer of complexity and beauty to the flower-like formation, as the translucency of the film allows light to refract and reflect through the crystal, creating a mesmerizing play of color and light. The resulting image is a testament to the incredible beauty and complexity of the natural world, and serves as a reminder of the hidden wonders that exist all around us.

2022 Irish Daily Mail + Irish Sunday Times

Thanks to Maeve Quigley for publishing this feature in the Irish Daily Mail.

2022 Oxford University Press Book Covers

2022 June Issue - Physics World

Fans of music festivals will recognize the phenomenon: you are slowly trying to leave a performance along with thousands of other people, when all of a sudden the crowd halts, and you can move no more. Like a molecule in cooling molten silica, your motion is suddenly arrested – you and your fellow festival-goers have turned into a glass. Or a glass analogue, at least.

Other glass analogues include ant colonies, biological cells trapped between slides, and colloids, such as shaving foam (see image above). Colloids in particular, with particles ranging up to microns in size, are convenient systems for testing theories of the glass transition, as their dynamics can actually be seen through a microscope. Even more surprising, though, is the onset of glass behaviour in certain computer algorithms. For instance, if an algorithm is designed to seek out progressively better solutions to a problem with a large number of variables it can become overwhelmed by complexity and grind to a halt before the optimal solution is found. By borrowing statistical methods designed for the fundamental study of glasses, however, such algorithms can be improved, and better solutions found.

2022 - Olympus Life Science Calendar + Brochures

A selection of photography used for Olympus/Evident Life Science Calendar and Brochure materials.

2022 - Feature in Naturevolve magazine for Science and Art

Naturevolve is a wonderful magazine dedicated to Science Art.

2022 - Donga Science (Science Magazine for Teenagers - South Korea)

A feature and interview in the Donga Science magazine published in South Korea.

2022 - Canadian Journal of Chemistry

A chemical cocktail constituting an anti-inflammatory agent with a potassium salt creates this network of branches frozen in a crystalline film. Imaged with compensated polarised light microscopy.

2021 - A Time to Call Home, Book Cover

Following the Covid-19 pandemic, rarely a day goes by when we are not bombarded with distressing images, statistics or forecasts that suggest the future of our planet hangs in the balance and that to avert disaster we must take affirmative action. Time to Call Home is a collection of short meditations inspired by Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ landmark encyclical letter on climate change, that encourages the reader to take courage in the face of adversity and to ponder the astonishing gift of the natural world. Unlike many examinations of the environmental crisis, that are understandably prescriptive in approach, the aim of this particular work is not to admonish but to embolden. Readers are inspired to ponder the awesome gift of creation and to heed its attendant call to stewardship of our shared home. With recourse to poetry, scripture, art and music, Hugh O’Donnell takes the reader on an awesome ecological journey, from which we emerge committed to redoubling our efforts to live at one with our natural surroundings.

A Selection of other Features