The beauty of crab blood parasites: Winner of 2018 Research as Art awards announced

Credit: Swansea University

Seventeen stunning images, and the fascinating stories behind them – such as analysing owls' daily diet, a dream about getting the blame unfairly, and how to tell which fish are the most devious — have today been revealed as the winners of the 2018 Research as Art Awards.

The overall winner is "Crab blood and collaborations", a microscope image of crab blood, which shows what the researchers describe as "the beauty of the crystalline blood cells and jewel-like parasites".

The winning entry was submitted by Frances Ratcliffe of Swansea University College of Science. She works on the BlueFish project, an EU-funded collaboration between researchers in Wales and Ireland which studies how fish and shellfish respond to climate change. One of the subjects being examined by the researchers is disease suffered by shellfish and edible crabs.

The BlueFish research team also includes Professor Andrew Rowley, Dr Frederico Batista and Sophie Ellis.

Research as Art is the only competition of its kind, open to researchers from all subjects, and with an emphasis on telling the research story, as well as composing a striking image.

It offers an outlet for researchers' creativity, revealing the hidden stories and attempts to humanise science and research. The project also celebrates the diversity, beauty, and impact of research at Swansea University – a top 30 research university.

A record 97 entries were received from researchers across all Colleges of the University, with titles such as:

  • What was for lunch, Archimedes?
  • They don't care about us
  • I see a green future

A distinguished judging panel of senior figures from the Royal Institution, Nature and Research Fortnight magazine selected a total of seventeen winners.

Along with the overall winner, there were four judges' awards, two awards for researchers from other institutions for best national and international entry, and ten runners-up.

Overall winner Frances Ratcliffe of the BlueFish Project described the image in the winning entry:

"Starting a PhD is daunting, not least because it requires me to focus on one particular subject when I am fascinated by so many. However, the collaborative nature of BlueFish project, of which I am a part, allows me to keep an open mind, to keep curious.

An example of this occurred when Andrew showed me this image of crab blood parasites. I was struck by the beauty of the crystalline blood cells and jewel-like parasites, and also by Andrew's enthusiasm for explaining almost a hundred photos to me despite the fact I'm not his student and I am not required to learn about this area.

When established biologists share their work informally it's inspiring. This unofficial mentoring, moments of passing on a passion for research, need to be celebrated. Perhaps a small collaboration, like this image, can highlight the role of larger collaborations in encouraging a new generation of scientists."

Competition founder and director Professor Richard Johnston, professor in materials science and engineering at Swansea University, said:

"Research as Art is an opportunity for researchers to reveal hidden aspects of their research to audiences they wouldn't normally engage with. This may uncover their personal story, their humanity, their inspiration, and emotion.

It can also be a way of presenting their research process, and what it means to be a researcher; fostering dialogue, and dissolving barriers between universities and the wider world."


Pictures and accompanying material:

  • All material is under embargo until 00.01 on Thursday 28 June 2018
  • Pictures and text may be used – with credit to Swansea University, and to individual entrant where applicable
  • JPEGs available on request

    Interview opportunities:

  • The winning entries will be exhibited at a reception at Swansea University from 12.30 to 2.30 pm on Thursday 28 June. Media organisations are invited to attend. There will be opportunities to interview winners with their entries. Please confirm attendance in advance.
  • Interviews in advance of this may be requested, both with winners and with competition founder Professor Richard Johnston, a British Science Association Media Fellow

Notes for editors:

Judging panel:

  • Prof. Gail Cardew – Professor of Science, Culture and Society at the Royal Institution
  • Dan Cressey, Deputy Editor, Research Fortnight and Research Europe
  • Flora Graham – Senior Editor, Nature Briefing
  • Barbara Kiser, Books and Arts Editor, Nature

When reporting this story, please use Swansea University hyperlinks.

Bluefish is a consortium consisting of Aberystwyth, Bangor and Swansea Universities in Wales, the Marine Institute, Bord Iascaigh Mhara and the University College of Cork in Ireland.

It will develop knowledge and understanding of the marine resources of the Irish Sea and Celtic Seas by addressing knowledge gaps regarding the effects on and potential vulnerability of selected commercial fish and shellfish from predicted climate change.

Swansea University is a world-class, research-led, dual campus university. The University was established in 1920 and was the first campus university in the UK. It currently offers around 350 undergraduate courses and 350 postgraduate courses to circa 20,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students.

The University's 46-acre Singleton Park Campus is located in beautiful parkland with views across Swansea Bay. The University's 65-acre science and innovation Bay Campus, which opened in September 2015, is located a few miles away on the eastern approach to the city. It has the distinction of having direct access to a beach and its own seafront promenade. Both campuses are close to the Gower Peninsula, the UK's first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Swansea was named 'Welsh University of the Year' in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017. The University is in the top 300 best universities in the world, ranked in the 251-300 group in The Times Higher Education World University rankings 2018.

The results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 showed the University has achieved its ambition to be a top 30 research University, soaring up the league table to 26th in the UK, with the 'biggest leap among research-intensive institutions' (Times Higher Education, December 2014) in the UK.

The University has ambitious expansion plans as it moves towards its centenary in 2020, as it continues to extend its global reach and realising its domestic and international ambitions.

Swansea University is a registered charity. No.1138342. Visit

Media contacts:

Kevin Sullivan, Swansea University Public Relations Office

01792 513 245
[email protected]

Media Contact

Kevin Sullivan
[email protected]