Graduate student's painting a finalist in 2021 Image of Research Exhibition

Reshmi Dani's painting, "Quantum Dynamics Via Path Integrals: Which Path Will the Molecule Choose?", is a semi-finalist in the 2021 Image of Research Exhibition.

A research image created by fourth-year graduate student Reshmi Dani has won honorable mention as one of the six finalists in the Illinois Graduate College's 2021 Image of Research exhibition. 

A member of professor Nancy Makri's research group, Dani's image titled, "Quantum Dynamics Via Path Integrals: Which Path Will the Molecule Choose?," was previously selected as one of 30 semifinalists in the research exhibition. On March 23, the top three finalists and three honorable mentions were announced, including Dani's original painting that illustrates the formulation of path integrals in quantum mechanics. Dani's research focuses on how quantum systems evolve in time.

In the description of her image, Dani said her creation combines two of her passions, painting and quantum mechanics.

Portrait image of Remshi Dani sitting in an empty restaurant.
Reshmi Dani

“I didn't paint it specifically for this exhibition,” Dani said. “I had made it first as an acrylic on canvas about a year ago, but when I heard about this competition, I repainted it on paper so that it would be neater.” 

Dani's passion for quantum mechanics began in her first class on the subject during her first year as an undergraduate in India.

“The very fact that chemistry could be done without chemicals blew my mind, and from there on, I would always try to personalize the theories or include it in my communication,” she said.

At the age of four under the direction of a kindergarten teacher is when she first began painting. But that hobby has grown into a passion more recently.

“Now I feel I truly appreciate it, and it is where I go to when the life of research gets too overwhelming,” Dani said. “I am also a classical Indian dancer and sometimes I paint dancers as I love combining all my passions. Maybe someday I'll be able to combine dance and quantum mechanics, that would be something.” 

Dani said she paints whenever she can find time. While working toward her PhD, she has taught herself oil painting.

Two paintings, side by side; on left, a cat in an orange jacket, on an orange background with chemical equations; and the one on the right with a woman dancer in green and blue dress
Two more of Dani's paintings: At left, Schrödinger’s cat, and right, a dancer.

“And I thoroughly enjoy it,” she said.

Her painting in the Research Image Exhibition is a watercolor on paper.

“I haven’t really painted anything relating to quantum mechanics before this path integrals, but I hope there will be more in the future,” she said. “I feel I can express myself the most through paintings.”

After her PhD, she plans to go into academia and teach.

“Teaching opens so many different perspectives and that is what is an important part of science according to me: finding different perspectives to look at nature,” she said.

All of the semifinalist images are included in an online gallery, where visitors voted for their top three entries for the People's Choice award.

The Image of Research is a multidisciplinary competition celebrating the diversity and breadth of graduate student research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Graduate and professional students are invited to submit entries consisting of an image and brief text that articulates how the image relates to the research. Entries will be judged by a multidisciplinary panel for their connection between image, text, and research; originality; visual impact.

All images submitted are included in an online exhibit hosted by the University Library and are archived for long term preservation in IDEALS.

The Image of Research is organized by the Scholarly Commons of the University Library and the Graduate College and is supported by a generous gift to the Scholarly Commons from the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics. Image of Research at Illinois was inspired by the Image of Research competition at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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