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Engineering Biology in Cambridge


Fernán Federici, OpenPlant Fellow at the University of Cambridge and Director of the Synthetic Biology Lab at Pontificia Universidad Católica in Chile has been awarded a Wellcome Trust Image Award for his micrograph of maize leaves, shot in the Department of Plant Sciences in collaboration with Professor Jim Haseloff.




Although seeming boring when viewed with the naked eye, maize leaves have such a delicate and intricate structure under the microscope, captured so wonderfully by this picture. The level of detail as demonstrated by the image reminds us how complex even relatively simple organisms are when seen on this scale.

James Cutmore, Picture Editor of BBC Focus

Fernán has enjoyed considerable success with his artistic images of bacteria and plants using microscopy, winning Wellcome Trust awards in 2011 and 2012. His image has appeared in multiple media outlets, including Nature Newsthe BBC and The Guardian

More on the image via the Wellcome Trust >>

Looking inside a cluster of leaves from a young maize (corn) plant reveals lots of details and organised structure. Each curled leaf is made up of lots of small cells (small green square and rectangle shapes), and inside each cell is a nucleus (orange circle), the part of the cell which stores genetic information. Maize is one of the most widely grown cereal crops in the world. It is used as a staple food, in livestock feed, and as a raw material – such as for processing into high-fructose corn syrup. Genetically modified maize crops are being grown to be resistant to pests and herbicides.


The image has been made freely available to use under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license.