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Practical Light Microscopy
Inexpensive image sensors (in webcams, and now cellphones) have changed the possibilities for undergraduate and graduate optics labs: suddenly the real power and elegance of optical imaging is accessible to students at all levels through exciting and useful hands-on imaging labs. Since it is now commonplace to build custom microscopes for research projects – especially those involving fluorescence microscopy, a technique at the vanguard of the current revolution in biology and biomedicine (and subject of 2008 and 2014 Nobel prizes) – the skills taught in these labs can be immediately put to use.
Figure 1: Fluorescence imaging in progress. Each microscope set-up is built and aligned by a team of two students.
A set of ten 3-hour lab modules have been designed to support a semester-long course, with all required materials. However, subsets of the labs can also be done as part of an Advanced Lab class that has students rotate through various different lab set-ups, or to emphasize the Fourier optics components of the labs for more advanced students.
Figure 2: Student masking the objective back focal plane during the Abbe theory / spatial filtering lab.
The Immersion will be three days long. The intent is to make it tractable for participants to introduce lab modules or the entire class at their home campuses; total equipment cost is about $10k for a single lab set-up. The materials will be available as a single kit through a collaboration with Thorlabs, Inc., making it easier to both set up and support the lab. Course and Lab Notes, (as well as Instructor Tips documents for faculty) for all ten lab modules – over 300 pages total – are provided as free PDFs to reduce student costs. We will address set-up and alignment of the optical system; imaging, image analysis, and go through several of the most exciting lab modules, including Abbe theory and spatial filtering, phase contrast, and fluorescence imaging. Reading from the Lab and Course Notes will be assigned beforehand; participants should bring their course materials (provided in advance), a notebook, and a laptop.
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