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Souping Up Your ‘Scope (Science)

Souping Up Your ‘Scope
Mike May
Science Magazine – May 2, 2014

The diversity of options for today’s microscopes—objectives and cameras, advanced stages and software, sources of illumination, and more—challenge even the experts when designing a new system. The process gets even more complex when faced with constraints, such as a budget or a specific set of necessary applications. Consequently, life scientists need to know where to spend and when to save. The experts interviewed here provide some pointers and give us insight into some of the newest components in the fast-changing field of microscopy.

A scientist’s ability to visualize the intricate details of their experimental model depends upon their microscope’s capabilities. “An old adage is that a microscope is only as good as the sum of its parts,” says Douglas Richardson, director of imaging at the Harvard Center for Biological Imaging in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “If one component—lens, detector, or anything else—is of lower quality than the rest, it affects the image in the end.” He adds, “You need all of the parts to function at their highest levels.”

A scientist can easily dream of their ideal microscope system, but building one takes more work. As Richardson says, “It’s a lengthy process to select which components to put on your system. It needs to be customized for your own applications.”

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