Nikon Announces Judging Panel for the 50th Annual Small World Competition

Nikon Instruments Inc. today announced the judging panel for the 2024 Nikon Small World photomicrography and Small World in Motion video competitions, to be held June 4-6 at the Marine Biological Lab (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the competition, celebrating the profound impact it has had on showcasing the beauty and science within the microscopic world.

The 2024 judging panel features top-tier experts in the fields of science and media, who include: Adrian Coakley, Director of Photography at National Geographic Books; Michelle S. Itano, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology and Director of the Neuroscience Microscopy Core at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill; Emily Petersen, Photography Managing Editor at Science magazine; Clare Waterman, Ph.D., Cell Biologist and Member of the National Academy of Sciences; Jennifer C. Waters, Ph.D., Director of the Core for Imaging Technology & Education at Harvard Medical School, and a Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Imaging Scientist; and Samantha Yammine, Ph.D., Neuroscientist and Science Communicator.

“In its 50-year journey, the Nikon Small World competition has not only captured the beauty of the unseen microscopic world but has also created a gallery of micro imagery that illustrates the evolution of microscopy technologies, techniques, and research,” said Eric Flem, Senior Manager, Communications and CRM at Nikon Instruments. “Through the eyes of its acclaimed judging panel, each year's gallery is a testament to the power of creativity in scientific imaging. As we celebrate this milestone, we look forward to hosting these captivating images and videos that hold the power to inspire and educate for another 50 years and beyond."

Over the past five decades, the Nikon Small World competition has unveiled the intricate details captured through the light microscope, earning its reputation as the leading forum in photomicrography. As in previous years, the competition will honor the top 20 photography and top 5 video winners, in addition to awarding Honorable Mentions and Images of Distinction.

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, this year's grand prize has been increased to $5,000. Submissions will be evaluated on originality, informational content, technical proficiency, and visual impact.

The distinguished panel of leaders will draw on their diverse backgrounds in artistic and scientific expression to determine which submissions best meet the criteria:

  • Adrian Coakley, Director of Photography at National Geographic Books: Coakley began his journey with National Geographic in 2007 as a photo editor, assuming numerous pivotal roles across the organization. Initially contributing to the National Geographic Books division, his projects explored themes of outer space, human origins, photography, and many others. He later transitioned to National Geographic Magazine, where he worked in print and digital platforms, focusing on exploration and adventure. In 2019, he returned to his roots and rejoined National Geographic Books as the director of photography, where his approach continues to shape the visual storytelling landscape. Coakley has long been fascinated with the intersection of art and science in visual communication. In 2023, he collaborated with renowned Science Photographer Anand Varma on a photographically curated coffee table book titled, “Invisible Wonders.”
  • Dr. Michelle S. Itano, Assistant Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology and Director of the Neuroscience Microscopy Core at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Dr. Itano is a cellular biophysicist who received her doctorate degree from the UNC School of Medicine, did her postdoctoral work at The Rockefeller University, and is now an assistant professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology at UNC-Chapel Hill. As director of the Neuroscience Microscopy Core at the UNC Neuroscience Center, she trains and consults with investigators to fully address their imaging needs and make crucial discoveries about human health and disease. In 2019, she was selected to be a Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Imaging Scientist in recognition of her investment in facilitating collaborations between researchers, software and infrastructure engineers, and computing specialists to design and disseminate efficient bioimaging pipelines. She has served as the Editor-in-Chief for BioTechniques since 2021 and participates as an instructor in many microscopy courses at UNC-Chapel Hill and beyond, including Advanced Courses at the MBL, Imaging Africa, Okinawa Microscopy Workshop, and the PAIR-UP Live Cell Imaging Workshop.
  • Emily Petersen​, Photography Managing Editor at Science magazine: Petersen is the photography managing editor at Science magazine in Washington, D.C. For the weekly publication and news site, she directs both freelance photographers and researchers to visualize complex science stories for the magazine’s covers, features, news, commentary, and social media accounts. In addition to her award-winning photo editing, she writes for the Science Visuals blog and is an iLCP ambassador. She received her master’s degree from American University, where she studied photography, film, and environmental science. Before that, she was a microbiologist for the U.S. Navy. While earning her bachelor’s degree in biology at Virginia Tech, she was also a histology and microscopy technician.
  • Dr. Clare Waterman, Cell Biologist and Member of the National Academy of Sciences: Dr. Waterman graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a B.A. in biochemistry in 1989. From there, she received an M.S. in exercise science in 1991 from the University of Massachusetts, and her Ph.D. in cell biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1995. She then spent nine years as a professor in the Department of Cell Biology at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. Dr. Waterman has received numerous awards and honors for her work, including election to the National Academy of Sciences and the Arthur S. Flemming Award for Public Service in Basic Science. Dr. Waterman has made fundamental advances in understanding cell migration and has authored or co-authored more than 150 papers. She currently serves on the editorial boards of Current Biology and Journal of Microscopy. Dr. Waterman is a member of the American Society for Cell Biology, Royal Microscopical Society, and Biophysical Society and is a Council Member of Gordon Research Conferences Organization.
  • Dr. Jennifer C. Waters, Director of the Core for Imaging Technology & Education at Harvard Medical School and a Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Imaging Scientist: Dr. Waters is the director of the Core for Imaging Technology & Education at Harvard Medical School and a Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Imaging Scientist. Dr. Waters received her Ph.D. in biology from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1998, under the guidance of Dr. Ted Salmon. After teaching a graduate microscopy course at Wake Forest University for several years, she began her current position in 2001. She teaches microscopy courses and workshops at Harvard, organizes the annual two-week course “Quantitative Imaging: From Acquisition to Analysis at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory,” and is the creator of,,, and the Advanced Microscopy Post-Doctoral Fellowship Program at Harvard Medical School.
  • Dr. Samantha Yammine, Neuroscientist and Science Communicator: Dr. Yammine is a neuroscientist turned popular science communicator better known as Science Sam. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto studying how stem cells build and maintain the brain, and then went on to found Science Sam Media, a science-based digital production agency. She is passionate about empowering people to explore science by making it more familiar, accessible, and inclusive. Through TV screens, social media, and keynote stages worldwide, Dr. Yammine has built an engaged community of people who love her unique style of science storytelling. You can find Dr. Yammine on social media as @science.sam, as a regular science expert on CTV's The Good Stuff with Mary Berg, and as a guest science correspondent for a variety of shows on Netflix, TVO Kids, CBC GEM, Discovery UK, and more. She sits on the Board for RCIScience and the anti-misinformation campaign ScienceUpFirst and was named one of Toronto Life’s Top 50 Most Influential People in Toronto in 2021.

The Nikon Small World in Motion video winners will be announced in September, and winners of the Small World photomicrography competition will be released in October.

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