Locust wing wins

Hamed Rajabi receives Image of the Year Award 2019 for microscopic photography

Microscopic image
© Hamed Rajabi

The photo shows a part of the foldable wings of a locust. It is called "A Road in the Sky" because the veins look like roads and the spines on the wing membrane look like stars.


For the first time, the "Olympus Global Image of the Year Life Science Light Microscopy Award" has been announced worldwide. One of 13 winners is Dr. Hamed Rajabi, scientist of the Functional Morphology and Biomechanics Group at the Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel (CAU), with his microscope image of a locust wing.

A top-class international jury of experts with representatives from science and the arts selected the winning pictures from 400 entries from 65 countries according to artistic and optical aspects, scientific significance and microscopic know-how. Hamed Rajabi is one of the winners with an "Honorable Mention". His photo "A Road in the Sky" shows the fold lines of a locust's rear wing.

To protect wings from contamination and damage, some insects, such as locusts, have evolved foldable wings. "To investigate the material composition of wing folding lines, I investigated hindwings of desert locusts using confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM). After scanning, I observed high portion of resilin, a rubber-like protein, at the folding lines. This is supposed to help wing folding by enhancing their flexibility. I named this photo as "A Road in the Sky", because veins resemble roads and spines on wing membrane look like stars", says Hamed Rajabi explaining his motive. It was recorded with an LSM 700 confocal laser scanning microscope from Zeiss, which is available in the Functional Morphology and Biomechanics group of Rajabi's supervisor, Professor Stanislav Gorb.

Original publications on the biomechanics of insect wings:

Rajabi, H., & Gorb, S. N. (2020). How do dragonfly wings work? A brief guide to functional roles of wing structural components. International Journal of Odonatology, 23(1), 23-30. Doi: 10.1080/13887890.2019.1687229

Rudolf, J., Wang, L. Y., Gorb, S. N., & Rajabi, H. (2019). On the fracture resistance of dragonfly wings. Journal of the mechanical behavior of biomedical materials, 99, 127-133. Doi: 10.1016/j.jmbbm.2019.07.009

Rajabi, H., Ghoroubi, N., Stamm, K., Appel, E., & Gorb, S. N. (2017). Dragonfly wing nodus: a one-way hinge contributing to the asymmetric wing deformation. Acta biomaterialia, 60, 330-338. Doi: 10.1016/j.actbio.2017.07.034

Rajabi, H., Shafiei, A., Darvizeh, A., & Gorb, S. N. (2016). Resilin microjoints: a smart design strategy to avoid failure in dragonfly wings. Scientific reports, 6, 39039. Doi: 10.1038/srep39039

All winning Photos at a Glance

The photography prize is not the first award for the Kiel scientist. Last year, he won one of two Kiel Life Science Postdoc Awards for excellent research quality and the Photography Award of the Royal Society of London. Hamed Rajabi was also selected as the “Distinguished Researcher” of the International Society of Bionic Engineering, mentioned in the first issue of the Newsletter of the society in 2020.

Links to the press releases:

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