Nikon's Small World

Celebrating 47 years of images captured by the light microscope

Nikon’s Small World is widely regarded as the leading forum to recognize proficiency and excellence of photography taken under the microscope. To select the winners, competition judges analyzed entries from all over the world. This round of competition received over 2,000 entries from scientists, artist and hobbyists in 90 countries. The submissions are evaluated on originality, informational content, technical proficiency, and visual impact.

A photomicrograph is an image whose structure, color, composition and content can be an object of beauty, open to several levels of comprehension and appreciation. The Nikon Small World Competition first began in 1975 to recognize and applaud the efforts of those involved with photography through the light microscope. Since then, it has become a leading showcase for photomicrographers from the widest array of scientific disciplines.

Open through March 21, 2022

This experience is located on the King Bridge Gallery and is included with purchase of museum admission.

Purchase admission


  • Dr. Dylan Burnette

    Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology at Vanderbilt University

    Burnette has been using high resolution microscopy to study cells for over 20 years. His laboratory at Vanderbilt University focuses on how cells grow and divide. He is interested in how these processes contribute to the function of heart muscle. He trained as a graduate student with Dr. Paul Forscher at Yale University and as a post-doctoral fellow with Dr. Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Burnette has placed in the Nikon Small World competition eleven times.

  • Dr. Christophe Leterrier

    Group Leader at the Institute of Neurophysiopathology at CNRS and Aix-Marseille University

    An engineer by training, Dr. Leterrier turned to cell biology and neurobiology for his Ph.D. He studies how neurons are organized at the cellular level and how they differentiate, then build and maintain their incredibly complex arborization. Since 2017, he has led the NeuroCyto lab in Marseille where he applies advanced microscopy techniques to directly observe molecular assemblies at the nanoscale inside neurons.

  • Samantha Clark

    Photo Editor at National Geographic

    Clark works on stories about science and the environment. She previously worked on NPR’s photo team and at Pier 24 Photography. Before working in visuals, she was a reporter and radio producer based in the Bay Area of San Francisco.

  • Sean Greene

    Graphics and Data Journalist at The Los Angeles Times

    Greene covers science, the environment and medicine. He started working for The Los Angeles Times in 2014 and specializes in combining the powers of visual storytelling and the internet to tell meaningful and memorable stories. He’s reported on native oysters, bugs and frog tongues, and helped develop projects such as an interactive map of the Milky Way, a tracker of coronavirus cases in California and a data analysis of the dialogue in the Star Wars movies.

  • Ariel Waldman

    Chair of the External Council for NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts Program

    Waldman led an expedition to Antarctica to film microscopic life under the ice. She is the co-author of a National Academy of Sciences report on the future of human spaceflight and the author of the book What’s It Like in Space?: Stories from Astronauts Who’ve Been There. Waldman is the global director of Science Hack Day, a National Geographic Explorer, a member of the San Francisco Microscopical Society, and received an honoree from the Obama White House as a Champion of Change in citizen science.

Photo credit
Daniel Castranova
Dr. Brant M. Weinstein, Bakary Samasa
1st Place, 2020 Photomicrography Competition
Dorsal view of bones and scales (blue) and lymphatic vessels (orange) in a juvenile zebrafish