October 20, 2021
Staff Accomplishment

IDREAM “Science in the Time of Covid” Illustration Takes Home People’s Choice Award

DOE jury of science communicators also taps entry for third place overall

An illustration showing a teleworking researcher remotely operating scientific equipment across the country.

IDREAM's winning “Science in the Time of Covid” entry into a DOE, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences art contest, which portrays how IDREAM researchers overcame challenges to continue their research in the face of a global pandemic. The illustration is titled "IDREAM Shines a Long-Distance Light on Radioactive Waste Research."

(Illustration by Stephanie King | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

A “Science in the Time of Covid” illustration featuring virtual cross-country research received the People’s Choice Award in a Department of Energy (DOE) contest.

The Interfacial Dynamics in Radioactive Environments and Materials (IDREAM) submission, illustrated by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) graphic designer Stephanie King, received the most online votes from the public between Sept. 27, 2021 and Oct. 15, 2021. The awards were announced on Oct. 18.

Sponsored by the DOE Office of Science’s Basic Energy Sciences Program, the art contest aimed to educate, inspire, and entertain audiences about the extraordinary science, innovation, and people in DOE’s Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), Energy Innovation Hubs, and Computational Materials and Chemical Sciences programs. IDREAM is one of the 41 EFRCs, representing a multi-institution partnership led by PNNL.

The announcement was made at the conclusion of the 2021 EFRC-Hub-CMS-CCS Principal Investigators’ Meeting, with over 500 industry stakeholders in virtual attendance and viewing the illustration. Additionally, a jury awarded IDREAM’s entry with third place overall, acknowledging the team’s ability to capture with graphic art how the pandemic changed the work of scientists, while also reflecting IDREAM’s scientific mission.

Titled “IDREAM Shines a Long-Distance Light on Radioactive Waste Research,” the illustration features Sebastian Mergelsberg, an IDREAM geosciences postdoc, teleworking from his home in Washington state to remotely operate a robotic arm and synchrotron over 2,000 miles away at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. By artistically showing this pivot in research, the IDREAM team was able to creatively share how its researchers, in the face of a global pandemic, continued to build collaboration and discover insights.

Said Mergelsberg, “It was imperative to continue this research, performing high-energy X-ray light analysis to understand the chemical and physical properties of the radioactive waste at DOE’s Hanford Site. This is fundamental to better waste retrieval and processing. We were able to continue testing samples under simulated harsh conditions where radiation is at play, and at really high salt concentrations, for example. This is how we test modifications to the waste at a small level to further optimize processing of the waste at a real-world scale down the line.”

IDREAM team members who participated in research associated with the DOE art contest entry. (Composite image by Cortland Johnson | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Other IDREAM team members involved in the research and contest entry included Carolyn Pearce, IDREAM EFRC director, PNNL; Xiaosong Li, IDREAM Early Career Network advisor, University of Washington; Emily Nienhuis, materials scientist postdoc, PNNL; Yihui Wie, chemist grad student, Washington State University; and Aurora Clark, IDREAM cross-cut lead, Washington State University.

The DOE art contest jury, consisting of Bibiana Campos-Seijo, editor-in-chief of Chemical & Engineering News and vice president of C&EN Media Group; Val Altounian, senior scientific illustrator, Science Magazine; and AnneMarie Horowitz, a DOE Public Affairs specialist and director of DOE's STEM Rising, judged a total of 15 entries.