UT Grad Student Takes Top Prize in Visualizing Science Contest

Discover the winner of UT’s College of Natural Sciences Visualizing Science contest and delve into the captivating world of space weather unveiled through Maile Marriott’s stunning image.

The Winning Image: Unveiling “Space Weather”

Physics graduate student Maile Marriott clinched the top spot in the Visualizing Science contest with her intricate portrayal of “space weather” caused by the sun. Solar wind emanating from the sun has a profound impact on satellites, space missions, and Earth’s atmosphere, as highlighted in a College of Natural Sciences press release.

Marriott’s piece showcases a “switchback,” a unique phenomenon in the solar wind where magnetic field lines display a reverse direction. The wind follows the newly bent lines due to its plasma composition, which results in an attraction to the field. Employing a fusion of electromagnetic and fluid dynamic equations, Marriott meticulously crafted the image using computer programs to unravel the evolution of the sun’s plasma.

“A lot of times people research waves in a box, and it’s just a uniform wave that fills up the whole box,” explained Marriott. “My research focuses on localizing the wave in the box and the profound effects it has on physics—a critical aspect often overlooked in modeling.”

Insights from the Total Solar Eclipse

Marriott capitalized on the total solar eclipse on April 8 to gather valuable data for her research in heliophysics. The unique opportunity to observe the sun’s corona during the eclipse offers researchers insights into the formation of “switchbacks” in this enigmatic region.

Anna Tenerani, an assistant professor specializing in space plasma physics, commended Marriott’s dedication and enthusiasm towards her research. Tenerani, who supervises Marriott’s graduate studies, expressed her joy at Marriott’s well-deserved victory and the opportunity to showcase her groundbreaking research.

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The Contest’s Diversity in Scientific Exploration

Steve Franklin, a communications specialist involved in the contest’s panel, emphasized the diversity of scientific research showcased in the Visualizing Science contest. The contest serves as a platform to present scientific concepts in a visually engaging manner, sparking curiosity and admiration for the wonders of science.

“The contest aims to showcase science in a way that energizes people,” Franklin stated. “The captivating images draw viewers in, encouraging them to delve deeper into scientific inquiries and fostering a genuine appreciation for the intricacies of science.”

Explore Marriott’s award-winning piece and other entrants’ captivating work in the innovative 3D virtual gallery.