San Diego students earn top honors for STEM-inspired art

Local high school students bring art and science together for LJI’s Inaugural Art of the Immune System Competition

1st prize

Elzie-Joy Arinduque, West Hills High School

Digital painting. Click to view full size.

2nd prize

Andrew Huynh, West Hills High School

Video entry. Click to watch full video on “The Immune System”

3rd prize

Ariyah Mast, Patrick Henry High School

Hand-embroidered mask. Click to view full size.


La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) is pleased to announce the winners of the Institute’s first-ever Art of the Immune System Competition:

– First prize: Elzie-Joy Arinduque, West Hills High School

– Second prize: Andrew Huynh, West Hills High School

– Third prize: Ariyah Mast, Patrick Henry High School

– Honorable mention: Sophie Duan, Westview High School

– Honorable mention: Alexa Aguilar, Granite Hills High School

Arinduque’s winning entry will be featured in a tear-out poster in the next issue of the LJI magazine, Immune Matters. She will also receive an iPad and membership in the The Guild of Natural Science Illustrators. The pieces by Huynh and Mast will also be featured in Immune Matters.

The immune system affects every moment of our lives. The Annual Art of the Immune System Competition aims to inspire high school students to think creatively about health and medical research. The competition launched in March 2021 and was open to all public high school students in San Diego County. 

Students were invited to learn more about immunology by attending virtual Q&As with LJI scientists Alison Tarke, Ph.D., and Sara McArdle, Ph.D. Students were encouraged to work in any medium and were also allowed to enter classroom projects from the 2020-2021 school year. Third-place winner Ariyah Mast even chose to embroider a face mask.

Digital painting of immune cells reacting to allergens

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

“My art piece was inspired by how the vaccines work against COVID and how masks have been a really big part of this past year,” says Mast.

Both Arinduque and Huynh were encouraged to enter the competition by their science teacher, Jeri Lines. “I am so proud of both these students,” says Lines.

Lines says that Arinduque and Huynh faced a challenging freshman year, as they dealt with entering high school as distance learners via Zoom, due to the COVID-19 precautions. Yet, Lines was impressed with their strong work ethic and willingness to take on creative projects.

In fact, Arinduque is interested in a future career in science, and she’s especially fascinated by astrophysics. “In science, I enjoy how there are literal explanations for why things are the way they are,” she says. “The overall concept of educating ourselves and finding connections between information is just something that will be further developed as time goes on. And even though modern science reflects our current understanding of everything within and beyond the universe, conclusions we have made can still be evolved on or disproved with the rise or discovery of new information; it’s fascinating.”

Huyhn is considering a future career in marine sciences. “What I enjoy about science is the fact that I can ask all sorts of questions, and what I like about art is that I’m able to express my creativity,” he says.

Digital illustration of human figures running, socializing and using computers

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

Lines has seen the value of prompting students to think differently about science in her own classroom. “Artistic pieces show individual processing of material and not just rote memorization,” she says.

The entries were judged by a panel of LJI scientists and staff, including Tarke, Sam Myers, Ph.D., Gina Kirchweger, Ph.D., Jenna Hambrick, Chris Romano, Clare Grotting, Olivia Corea and Matt Ellenbogen.

“I’m very impressed with how these students captured the colorful side of science and the importance of research in our everyday lives,” says Kirchweger, Chief Communications Officer at LJI. “In many ways, scientists and artists approach the world in the same way. Both fields require creativity, experimentation and a passion to keep going.”

The 2022 Art of the Immune System Competition will run October 2021 to March 2022. Students will have access to new scientist Q&As, and LJI hopes to reach even more local classrooms.

Please send any inquiries about the upcoming competition to Madeline McCurry-Schmidt at