Microscopy is a field of investigation which is used to study objects which are too small to be easily viewed by the human eye. Viewing and studying objects that range in size from millimeters (1 mm ~ 0.04" = 4 hundredths of an inch) to nanometers (1 nm ~ 0.00000004" = 40 billionths of an inch) intrigues everyone and is currently applied to every field of science and technology in use today. Microscopes, devices which magnify, come in a wide range of forms and use a multitude of illumination sources ( light, electrons, ions, x-rays and and mechanical probes) and signals to produce an image. A microscope can be as simple as a hand held magnifying glass or as complex as a multi-million dollar research instrument. Using these tools, a microscopist explores the relationship of structure and properties of a wide variety materials in order to more fully understand the reasons why a particuliar item behaves the way it does. It is a fascinating disicipline which is applied to all fields from biology and chemistry to physics and engineering.
Ask a Microscopist is a project which allows students and educators at any school level to ask questions about microscopy or microanalysis to scientists. In addition, at prearranged times individuals can login to a real laboratory and visit and talk to scientists on-line as well as view microscope operations in near real time.
Images of a Sewing Needle at different Magnifications.
Ask a Microscopist is intended to bring the excitement of microscopy into the classroom in a state-of-the-art manner, using the interactivity of the Web. There are two methods which we use. First, students and educators can enter questions using the electronic form below. These messages are forwarded to volunteers who then send back answers by Email in a few days. Secondly, they may login to a microscope room and view work in progress using TelePresence Microscopy (connect here for technical details) an advanced concept in interactive use of scientific instrumentation over high speed networks. The former method is quick and simple, yet allows an individual to directly contact research scientist(s) who have volunteered to answer questions. The later is abit more dynamic and more visually oriented but is generally only applicable those who have higher speed connections to the Net. A third method, which bridges the gap employs a Web Camera, which takes periodic images of experiments in progress and puts them up on the Web for viewing by anyone.
Ask A Microscopist On-Line using TelePresence Microscopy (TPM) from Argonne National Laboratory. You can visit a laboratory and if a video conference is on-line you can ask a scientist questions in real time using the Internet! If no conference is running you can "peek" into a state-of-the-art laboratory and see what is happening by viewing a WebCam which grabs periodic images of experiments in progress. To participate in a TeleConference you will need a copy of Cu-SeeMe a teleconferencing software package developed by Cornell University. This is available for downloading from the TPM site or from the Cornell development team.