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Lifelong Love of the Microscopic—Meet the IOTY 2020 Americas Regional Winner

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Stitched panorama images of crystallized amino acids L glutamine and beta alanine using polarized light

In the spring, we announced the winners of Olympus’ Global Image of the Year (IOTY) contest for 2020. Since then, we launched the 2021 edition and are currently accepting submissions.

Regional image of the year (IOTY) 2020 winner for the Americas, Justin Zoll, with is prize, a CX23 upright microscope

Justin Zoll with his prize, a CX23 microscope

As with past editions of IOTY, we’re featuring profiles of the 2020 winners in the Olympus Discovery blog, starting with the three regional winners and then wrapping up with the global winner.

You can read our interviews with the EMEA and Asia-Pacific winners here and here, respectively. Now, it’s the Americas’ turn—the regional IOTY 2020 Americas winner is Justin Zoll, a hobby microscopist turned professional from the US. His richly colorful and luxuriously textured image of crystallized amino acids L glutamine and beta alanine captured the judges’ admiration.

Download the original JPEG (4.31 MB) of Justin’s image here.

Learn about Justin’s imaging background and what led him to capture his prize-winning image in our interview with him below.

Q: Where and when did you first learn to use a microscope? Do you have a scientific background?

A: I do not have a formal scientific background though I have always been very interested in science and have pursued it on my own time. I played with simple microscopes as a child, but it wasn’t until around 2016 when my good friend Nick let me experiment with his Olympus BH2 microscope that my interest was rekindled. It encouraged me to buy a BH2 microscope of my own.

Olympus global image of the year (IOTY) 2020 contest winner for the Americas region, Justin Zoll, with a microscope he had when he was a child

IOTY 2020 Americas winner Justin Zoll showing his budding enthusiam for the microworld at a young age

Q: What do you do professionally and does your profession intersect with microscopy imaging?

A: My bartending did not. Until the COVID-19 pandemic began, I was a bartender but have since been out of work. That said, I am also a photographer, and my concert, nature, and wedding photography certainly does, and it informs my approach to microscopy. I do some microscopy work for various clients (mostly for packaging and advertising) and photograph weddings with my sister Heather. It started as a hobby, but I have been extraordinarily lucky to have secured a number of microscopy projects, which are making it a bit more than a hobby at this point.

Q: What do you find most fascinating about microscopy?

A: The beauty and complexity of the microscopic world echoes that of the macroscopic so perfectly.

Q: Where does this fascination stem from?

A: Being human!

Q: How did you capture your image and what do you find exciting about it?

A: The final image is a stitched panorama of approximately 12 raw images, and I used polarizing filters to reveal color and structure. The intricate organic shapes and vibrant colors available through the use of polarized light make this combination a favorite of mine. I was particularly happy with the depth and form present in this image. It has a very natural and graceful feel to me.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share?

A: I’m very honored to have received this award, especially when so many amazing scientists and artists submitted images. I am super excited to use this new microscope! As much as I love my old BH2 microscope, I look forward to trying new techniques and exploring new materials in samples in the coming year.

Submit Your Image to IOTY 2021 for a Chance to Win an Olympus Microscope!

If you enjoy microscopy imaging, whether as a profession or hobby, consider submitting up to 3 of your best images to our 2021 contest. Prizes include an Olympus SZX7 stereo microscope with a DP28 digital camera for the global winner and a CX23 upright microscope for one of the regional winners. Good luck to all participants!

Related Content

Scientific Works of Art: Announcing the Winners of Our 2020 Global IOTY Award

The Art of Science: Olympus Launches Third Global Image of the Year Contest

Embracing Social Media and Its Important Role in Science Outreach

Manager, Marketing Communications

Kerry Israel is the Manager of Marketing and Communications for Life Science at Evident. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brandeis University, and more than 15 years of experience in all aspects of marketing, from advertising and social media strategy to grassroots outreach. 

Dec 09 2021
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