PhD Summer Showcase highlights Imperial's artistic side


Amy Macdougall and her Research as Art project

Student creativity was on show at Imperial's first ever PhD Summer Showcase.

The event, hosted by the College’s Graduate School, was organised to celebrate the research being carried out by Imperial’s PhD students and provided an opportunity for staff and students to find out more about the research projects being undertaken across the university.

This was a wonderful opportunity for students to think creatively and imaginatively about their research.

– Laura Lane

Manager, Graduate School

The Showcase kicked off with a poster competition which involved 75 PhD students from across the College, and was followed by a ‘Research as Art’ competition where students create a piece of artwork to describe their research. 

In both contests each entry was judged not only on the content and appearance of their poster or art piece but also on the students’ ability to talk about their research in a way that can be shared with the general public. 

The Showcase concluded with a prize ceremony in the evening, with the prizes presented by Professor Sue Gibson, Director of the Graduate School. Showcase poster exhibition

Laura Lane, Manager of the Graduate School, said: “This was a wonderful opportunity for students to think creatively and imaginatively about their research. They had access to the College's art studio and were able to choose whatever medium they liked to create their exhibit. It was great to do something different.”


The competition was divided into two categories, one for posters and the other for art projects.

Research as Art

Amy Macdougall from the National Heart and Lung Institute took home first prize in the Research as Art category. I spoke to Amy to find out more about her project.

Amy, what was the subject of your piece?

Amy being presented with her prize by Professor Sue Gibson

My piece focused on early growth and lung function in children with cystic fibrosis, the subject of my PhD. The piece is essentially a visualisation of weight from birth to age 5 years, then lung function from age 6 to 7 years. Lung function is the most important measure of health in people with cystic fibrosis but it is not routinely measured until around age 6. Weight is however easily measured, and I am looking at what weight trajectories in early life can tell us about later lung function.

The weight trajectories were modelled with wire, and coloured according to speed of growth and overall size (i.e. heavier or lighter). As I am trying to link weight with lung function, each lung function trajectory was coloured to match its corresponding weight trajectory.

Why did you decide to enter the competition?

I had the idea to make a 3D visualisation of the data I use, and spoke to some friends who work in design who gave me some ideas about which materials to use. Most usefully my partner is a plumber and has lots of equipment around at home which I could use, like wire cutters and superglue. Visiting the lovely studio at Imperial and speaking to the artist in residence, Mindy Lee, was very helpful. It didn’t take me long to decide I wanted to do it as I thought I’ll never get an opportunity like this again. Working out how I would actually make it took much longer!

How did you find the event and how did it feel to win?

The event was very fun, although I was a bit stressed getting the piece set up as I had to glue some of the parts together on the morning and of course it didn’t work as easily as it had done at home. Once it was set up, I enjoyed talking to the other participants, and I judged some of the brilliant posters which I was very impressed by. It was great to see work from departments I am never normally in contact with. Some friends who I’d talked with about the piece came along to see it, and my partner and children came along after school. We were all surprised and delighted when I was given first prize! I am very grateful to have been part of the competition, and glad that others enjoyed looking at my piece.

Poster Competition


Claire Edmondson

Claire Edmondson accepting her prize

Claire Edmondson from the National Heart and Lung Institute took home first prize in the poster category.


Claire, what was the project behind your poster?

My poster documented the process we used to design an app that was engaged young people with cystic fibrosis and their parents. In order to do this we created 'mock' screen shots of the app in two different aesthetics and showed them to a group of app testers, their parents and the Youth Advisory Group at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. The poster shows the results of the vote and the comments on the designs.

The favourite design was made into a live app which is currently being used in a study called CLIMB-CF which is looking at the feasibility of collecting data on a patient remotely at home with the hope that in the future it will help us monitor the clinical status of someone with cystic fibrosis remotely as well as via hospital appointments. 

What inspired you to enter the competition?

The call for the competition was about public engagement and I believed my project fitted the bill with regards to this. It is incredibly important to think about public engagement in both the design of your research as well as how you present the research to people who do not necessarily work in your area. As this project is about the feasibility of home monitoring we wanted to involve young people from the start with the design of the app to ensure the final app was as engaging as possible. 

How did you find the event and how did it feel to win?

I really enjoyed the event, it was really interesting to see what other diverse work is going on within the University. The judges were really engaged and people asked really interesting questions. I also really liked the research as art entries. I was very shocked to win but very flattered that my entry had been chosen.


Jon Narcross

Jon Narcross
Communications and Public Affairs

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