Science and medicine inspire art awards – Institute for Molecular Bioscience

Medicines of the future were the scientific inspiration for this year’s Jo Underhill IMB Art Award winners

First prize winner Dr Jeffrey Mak also took artistic inspiration from Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ in his artwork ‘Microbial Marvel’ which celebrates the effects of a recently discovered compound called 5-OP-RU.

Jeffrey Mack’s ‘Microbial Marvel’ (Winner, Judges’ Award)

The compound has been shown to exert antibacterial protection, tissue repair, and protection against cancer metastases in mice.

“The colors I chose in my artwork were intended to evoke hope and optimism, reflecting the potential of 5-OP-RU as a basis for future medicine,” said Dr. Mack.

“As scientists, we are artists in our own way, whether it’s designing a new molecule or finding a creative way to do something for the first time – art inspires passion and this competition allows us to express our work to the public.”

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The award is named in memory of former IMB artist-in-residence Joe Underhill. Joe’s mother, Primrose Underhill, presented the awards at the Institute’s end-of-year awards

“Naming the award after Jor means he is remembered every year and it’s very special,” Ms Underhill said.

Dr. Mack says that every year, when he submits an artwork, he thinks of Joe and the wonderful art he painted as artist-in-residence at IMB.

“I love Joe’s art; Every time you watch it, you’ll see something you didn’t appreciate before and you’ll learn something new about Joe.”

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Spider with jelly bean as poison
‘Treasure in Venom’ by Ken Lai (Runner-up, Judge’s Award)

Mr. Ken Lai of IMB’s Advancement Team was awarded the runner-up prize for his pencil drawing of a funnel web spider rich in its venom, which IMB researchers use to find new molecules to cure deadly diseases.

“It’s amazing that scientists can use compounds from something as deadly as poison to create cures for heart attacks and strokes – I was really inspired by how nature influences IMB’s life-changing research,” he said.

“It was such an honor to meet Primrose and, in some small way, be a part of honoring her daughter Zoe.”

Entries were judged by Dr Holly Arden, Director of UQ’s Art Museum, Professor Judith McLean, former Chair, Australia Council for the Arts and Professor Alpha Yap from IMB.

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Underhill Mak Lai
Judge’s Award winners Jeffrey Mak (L) and Ken Lai (R) with Primrose Underhill (center).

The competition also included a People’s Choice Award which was won by PhD student Hongyu Shen’s ‘Exploding Macrophage’.

Mr. Shen’s entry shows an immunofluorescence image of an immune cell called a macrophage captured by live cell microscopy.

Mr. Shen studied the role of a protein called tetraspanin in the immune response in hopes of reducing inflammation.

‘Exploding Macrophages’ by Hongyu Shen (Winner, People’s Choice)

The competition is held annually in honor of Joe Underhill, who died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014.

Discover every entry for this year’s competition in our online gallery.


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