Newswise — PHILADELPHIA—(Jan. 17, 2018)—Immortalized human skin cells that look like a psychedelic otherworldly galaxy and a living algae colony releasing its daughter colonies that could be mistaken for Pacman gobbling up ghosts are just two of the winning images from the 2017 Nikon Small World competition of photomicrography–photography taken through microscopes–that arrive at The Wistar Institute with an opening reception on Jan. 19.

Every day, researchers peer through microscopes to observe images at cellular and sub-cellular levels in the hopes of making scientific progress. From Jan. 22 through March 2, 2018, this world, though impossible to see with the naked eye, will be on view to the public and feature the top 20 images chosen from among more than 2,000 entries submitted from all over the world. Each winning photograph, taken by a scientist, artist, professional or semi-professional photographer, exhibits the exemplary technique, scientific discipline and artistry for which the Nikon Small World competition is known. The Wistar Institute is the only venue in the region to host these remarkable works of art, and has been hosting this exhibit in our region for the past 15 years.

During the opening reception this Friday, guests will not only see the winning images on display, but they will also learn how Wistar scientists utilize microscopy to improve their understanding of cancer by studying cell growth and cell invasion in their specific research work. Opportunities at the event include:

  • the Robert and Penny Fox Tower atrium feature wall, which holds a series of 15 high-definition TV screens, will project all the Nikon Small World winners of 2017;
  • a hands-on microscope demonstration by Wistar scientists;
  • a self-guided tour of cell photographs created by past and current Wistar scientists hanging throughout the Institute and view of other pieces of Wistar history and scientific art; and,
  • brief talks from Wistar Imaging Facility Managing Director James E. Hayden, FBCA, RBP, and Nikon Instruments Inc. Communications Manager Eric Flem on the impact of microscopy.

In this year’s competition, Hayden was awarded an “Image of Distinction” for two micrographs entitled Prostate cancer cells and 3D mouse skin collagen. His were selected from more than 2,000 entry submissions. Hayden is a past winner of Nikon Small World and since 1991 has a had a total of 16 winning entries in this global competition.

Celebrating 44 years, the Nikon Small World competition is a leading forum for photomicrography worldwide. This year’s winning images include a collection of microorganisms, cells, plants, and insects that reveal the near-flawless techniques of microscopy, capture a decisive moment in time, and embody the scientific and artistic curiosity of the photographer.

You can view the 2017 Nikon Small World winners, honorable mentions and images of distinction here. Top images from the competition will exhibited in a full-color calendar and through this national museum tour.


The Wistar Institute is an international leader in biomedical research with special expertise in cancer research and vaccine development. Founded in 1892 as the first independent nonprofit biomedical research institute in the United States, Wistar has held the prestigious Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute since 1972. The Institute works actively to ensure that research advances move from the laboratory to the clinic as quickly as possible.