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2010 Image of Research Winners
Avatar - a Virtual Human
Sangyoon Lee, Computer Science
The research project LifeLike aims to design and develop a lifelike computer interface, called an avatar. My research has been focused on the recreation of a visually compelling digital version of a real human, Dr. Alexander Schwarzkopf, who is a long-standing program manager at NSF. The prototype system is designed to help researchers prepare for a proposal using interactive questions and answers with the avatar.
We have seen many instances of avatars in movies and video games. A single image of movie scene takes hours to render, while characters in games look too cartoonish to convey the sense of natural face-to-face human communication. However, LifeLike application renders an avatar fast enough to accommodate real time interaction as well as produce photorealistic details similar to a real person. The success of project brings us one step forward to preserve humans in natural way as opposed to knowledge in a written form.
The image is captured from real time renderings on a 4k-resolution display (4 times HDTV). The avatar in the current LifeLike application looks very close to a real human. Or, as Dr. Schwarzkopf put it, "It’s here. It looks like me." when he interacted with his avatar in Jan 2010.
Credits: This research is NSF funded collaborative efforts between Electronic Visualization Lab., Computer Science (Visualization - Jason Leigh, Andrew Johnson, Luc Renambot, Sangyoon Lee) & Communication Department (Behavioral Modeling and Evaluation - Steve Jones, Gordon Carlson), University of Illinois at Chicago and University of Central Florida (Knowledge and Speech Recognition - Avelino Gonzalez, Ronald DeMara, Victor Hung, JR Hollister, Miguel Elvir).
Water water everywhere nor any drop to drink
Kristin Thomas, Biopharmaceutical Sciences
My image is an evaporating dish containing an array of disks cut from PEGDA hydrogels synthesized in our lab. These disks are transparent and at the microscale they are comprised of an interpenetrating network into which water and proteins can enter. These gels can be synthesized using either chemicals or light, but what makes them so unique is their ability to amalgamate themselves with aqueous systems and hoard all of the water - much like a sponge. This ability makes the hydrogel a prime candidate for a variety of applications ranging from everyday products as diapers to systems that contain cells. Here we see pictured transparent disks of hydrogel swollen from water uptake. In my research, I study the ability of these gels to absorb protein along with water. If these gels are able to take up enough protein, they could be used as environments for cells, or even drug delivery vehicles into which "target" proteins could enter and release therapeutic agents.
Photoreceptors of the Retina
Anne Campbell, Biomedical Visualization
Whilst researching the human retina I found its complex structure and physiology very intriguing. Light must penetrate a number of cell layers in order to reach two types of photoreceptor cells, namely rods and cones. The movement of light transduction begins at the photoreceptor cell layer and carries through up to the ganglion layer where the signal is sent to the optic nerve and further on to the brain. This illustration depicts the highest area of visual activity in the retina, the fovea, and was rendered in Adobe Photoshop CS4. Here, some of the cone cells, which are extensive in the fovea, have been removed to give a visual representation of the layered structure that is involved in signal transduction.
Michael Sirianni, Art & Design
I have always been interested in the process of identity construction. In my thesis project I explore how seemingly ephemeral artifacts, transitory effects of circumstance and system, reveal the underlying relationships that give context to self. I search for patterns in the unintended and look for momentary vulnerabilities where artifice begins to break down. I am fascinated with these fissures because I believe they operate as signifiers of human limitation, of an inability to predict and control, and of a possibly subconscious or external force at work. It is in these gaps of intentionality and facility that I believe we can start to investigate that which exists beyond complete comprehension, namely issues surrounding identity's temporality and dependency.
Slow Burn explores the emergence of a pattern developing, out of sight, in the library. A circumstantial product of books' shelving and stasis, light has written onto the covers of these volumes, indiscriminate of author or subject heading. These are the marks of immobility, scars of books left behind, signs of an encroaching obsolescence. Checking out over four hundred such light-imprinted library books, I used the color spectrum, a structure internal to the affecting agent, light, to organize this new collection.
Cave of Eternity
The corneal epithelium, essential for the integrity and clarity of the cornea, is constantly regenerated by limbal stem cells. These limbal stem cells are present in a specialized region called limbus located between cornea and sclera in the form of crypts. Upon injury these cells proliferate and migrate out of the crypts and differentiate into corneal epithelial cells. The focus of my dissertation research has been to induce limbal crypt formation in decellularized corneas.
Human cadaver cornea was primary fixed with gluteraldehyde and paraformaldehyde. For secondary fixation, the sample was incubated in osmium tetraoxide followed by dehydration in graded ethanol. The sample was then critical point dried and mounted on aluminum Stub. It was then coated with gold/palladium and images were taken with scanning electron microscope (JOEL 5600LV SEM) at Electron Microscope Lab in the east campus of UIC.
New Species of Crystallophlomis from Tibet
Jacqueline Van De Veire, Biological Sciences
The principal objective of my dissertation research is to reconstruct the evolutionary history of species in the genus Primula section Crystallophlomis, a lineage of flowering plants endemic to a north temperate biodiversity hotspot in south-central China. Accomplishment of this goal will permit insights into the mechanisms that create the high levels of biodiversity found there. This photograph was taken on June 23, 2009, in Bomi Xian (County) in Tibet. This exceptionally beautiful Primula is believed to be a new species of section Crystallophlomis never described before. It was found growing at an elevation of 3639 m near a large, glacial run-off stream. Fieldwork for my research involves the collection and pressing of plant specimens, documentation of locality and habitat, digital imaging, and gathering of leaf tissue for DNA extraction and analysis. The samples are sent back to the US for molecular analysis at UIC. This is my third field trip to China and my first to Tibet. It was supported by a grant (Building Capacity for Biodiversity Research, Conservation, and Education in Eastern Himalaya) funded by the MacArthur Foundation and awarded to Dr. Jun Wen of the Smithsonian Institution.