This embroidery by San Diego artist Patricia Pauchnick is a beautiful example of how medical imagery can be represented in an unconventional style.

Call for entries: “Art of the Immune System” Competition

The La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) invites San Diego County students grades 9-12 to enter the Art of the Immune System Student Competition.

LJI is a research institute in San Diego where creative researchers and staff come together to solve big problems in immune system research. Scientists here study diseases such as COVID-19, Ebola, type 1 diabetes, cancers, allergies and much more.

This art competition is a chance for local high school students to learn about immune system research and inspire others to see the beauty in science!

Pieces are due: Feb. 15, 2022

Winners announced: Feb. 28, 2022

To enter: Send your art or any questions to Madeline McCurry-Schmidt, LJI science writer, at

In addition to entering an art piece, students will be asked to submit background information on their piece, including: the connection between the piece and science/health, why they choose their art medium, and what they learned about science during the process.

Projects completed as class assignments may be submitted to the competition. We ask that students submit individual projects, as we do not have a separate category for group projects.

Scientist Q&As

To inspire your work, we have arranged a series of live Q&A sessions with researchers here at LJI. Attending a Q&A is not a requirement for the competition.

All sessions will be held via Zoom. Sessions will be recorded and made available to students who cannot attend a live Q&A. Teachers: please email to arrange a live Q&A for your classroom.

  • Monday, Jan. 10, 3:30 PM: “Helping the most at-risk patients” a Q&A with LJI Graduate Student Erik Ehinger
  • Monday, Jan. 24, 3:30 PM: “What I’ve learned about COVID-19” a Q&A with LJI Research Assistant Professor Dr. Daniela Weiskopf

Following the Q&As, students can create a work of art that represents any aspect of health or medical research. We welcome entries using any visual media, including digital art, sculpture and photography. Students may want to depict the immune cells discussed, the effects of a disease or even the scientific team involved in the research.

For teachers

Teachers may sign up for the competition on behalf of a group of students. LJI will then be in touch with information on how students can submit their art pieces. 

Your students are welcome to attend our scientist Q&As independently or in an after-school session. You can also contact LJI Science Writer Madeline McCurry-Schmidt ( to make arrangements for a live Q&A session with your class. There are limited time slots for live Q&As, and it is first-come, first-serve.


All finalists will have their work showcased in a virtual gallery hosted by the La Jolla Institute for Immunology.

The first, second and third place winners will have their work printed in LJI’s Immune Matters magazine, which reaches more than 8,000 households across the country. 

The first place winner will also receive an iPad and a one-year sponsorship from LJI to join The Guild of Natural Science Illustrators, a global non-profit professional organization for all artists who work in the realm of visual science communication.

Frequently asked questions

Art pieces will be judged by a panel of scientists and staff at La Jolla Institute for Immunology.

The judges assess the art on whether they find it visually intriguing, whether it shows artistic skill, and if there is a clear connection in the piece to health/medical research.

Yes, as long as the work was completed in the 2021-22 school year and there is a clear connection to health/science research.

No, only one piece is allowed per student.

No problem! Email by Feb. 1 to make arrangements to have your art piece picked up at your school. Your art piece will be returned to you by Apr. 1, 2022.

No, unfortunately we do not have a separate category for group projects.

Scientist Q&A sessions will be recorded and made available to any one who cannot attend them live. Attending a scientist Q&A is not a requirement for entering the competition; however, we strongly encourage all entrants to attend or view a Q&A. These sessions offer a unique look into medical research and can greatly inspire your work!

Past Winners

1st Prize

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Elzie-Joy Arinduque, West Hills High School
Digital painting.

2nd Prize

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Andrew Huynh, West Hills High School
Video entry.

3rd Prize

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Ariyah Mast, Patrick Henry High School
Hand-embroidered mask.

Honorable Mention

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“Start of an Allergic Reaction”
by Sophie Duan, Westview High School

Honorable Mention

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“How we fought before the pandemic”
by Alexa Aguilar, Granite Hills High School