GCC alum wins National Science Foundation competition

October 1, 2008

Colleen Champ came to Greenfield Community College in the Fall of 2006 to explore options in computer imaging. Already an accomplished medical and scientific illustrator, she sought help and guidance to bring her skills into the digital age. The immediate solution was to enroll in GCC’s ART 161, Introduction to the Electronic Studio.  ART 161 is a foundation studio art course focusing on computer imaging fundamentals using Adobe Photoshop.

In ART 161, Colleen found an outlet for her creative talents and natural sense of scientific inquiry. In an early class assignment, Colleen faced the problem of building a new, distinct image by using pieces of another existing image. Her instructor, Tom Boisvert, remembers how Colleen eventually took that simple idea and “made beautiful, intricate works of art from some of the most unusual source images.” The work was so strong that the Art Department chose one of her images as the key image for the annual GCC student art show and the College has used her work in official publications.  Her original work, originally created as a “final project” in ART 161, has now developed into the work now being recognized by the NSF.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the journal Science have awarded scientist/artist Colleen Champ of Amherst, MA, and scientist/photographer Dennis Kunkel of Kailua, HI, first place in their annual “Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge,” a competition for artists who create scientific illustrations.   Champ created the winning digital image titled “The Mad Hatter’s Tea” using photographs of microscopic organisms taken by Kunkel with his light and electron microscopes.   The artwork depicts the familiar scene of Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter, enjoying tea outside with friends.  Upon closer inspection, what look like trees are actually common bread mold, and the grass blades are actually images of crystallized vitamin C.  This is not your grandma’s Alice in Wonderland.   Not only did Champ and Kunkel take first place in the category of informational graphics with this image; their artwork was selected from five categorical winners to grace the cover of the September 26, 2008 special edition issue of the research journal Science.

Champ, who moved to the area 3 years ago from Connecticut, has been a freelance medical and scientific illustrator for 20 years.  Her work can be found in Merriam Webster’s Medical Dictionary, The University of CT, Baystate Medical Center, and various science textbooks.  She is a certified Clinical Laboratory Specialist in Cytogenetics, and a certified Massachusetts public school science teacher.  Her business, Concise Image Studios, is a group of scientists who provide illustrations for the promotion of scientific education.

Kunkel is an award-winning photomicrographer whose images of the microscopic appear worldwide in print, film, and electronic media, with 30 years of research experience. He has enjoyed success with the publications of multiple books, including MicroAliens, and Sneeze! His business, Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc., offers microscopy services, as well as an extensive collection of scientific images for viewing or licensed use.

Champ and Kunkel are in the final stages of developing their book, Alice’s Adventures in a Microscopic Wonderland.  “The Mad Hatter’s Tea” is one image from many in this collection.

To see more of Colleen Champ’s work, visit www.conciseimage.com.  She will also be speaking at Bay Path College, Springfield, as part of their Kaleidoscope Series, on February 9th, 2009.

To see the inspiring work of Dennis Kunkel, visit www.denniskunkel.com.  For more information about the competition, and to see the other winning images from this year and years previous, please visit www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/scivis/.