2005 VISUALIZATION CHALLENGE

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Science  23 Sep 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5743, pp. 1991
DOI: 10.1126/science.309.5743.1991a
FIRST PLACE: Fluoressence: The Essence of Fluorescence

Cheryl Aaron, Omega Optical Inc.

A mosaic of colors and flares of light: all this, and emission peaks, too? The winning rainbow of light-sensitive molecules can both spice up a drab laboratory wall and provide a quick-reference guide for fluorescence microscopists.

Fluorescent molecules respond to irradiation by light of a known wavelength, such as ultraviolet, with a colorful glow of their own. As an incoming photon excites the molecule, its electrons vibrate and then relax to their lowest energy level, emitting a longer wavelength of light as the molecule returns to its ground state. Because the excitation and resultant emission wavelengths are highly sensitive and specific to a given fluorophore, scientists can use fluorescent dyes to generate telltale lights that label cells and different biological structures with great accuracy.

The poster was the brainchild of a team of marketing experts at Omega Optical Inc. The company makes optical filters for microscopes, and it wanted to give its customers a useful reference chart, says Omega marketing manager Cheryl Aaron. The design team used a rainbow of photographs of dyes and other fluorophores supplied by both employees and customers, and included critical emission and excitation wavelengths for each fluorophore, to create a graphic they hope will brighten many a university classroom or lab.

“It was a wonderfully intelligent approach to putting all of this information in one place” and also “quite beautiful,” says panel of judges member Felice Frankel.

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