As a part of Bama Biology Bootcamp, the students (and mentors) were given tours of various research labs, ranging from museum collections and molecular plant labs all the way to classical Drosophila genetics labs. In an attempt to expose the students to some of the technology found in our department, I conducted six separate tours of the Optical Analysis Facility, which houses the department's top of the line microscopes. I began the tour by introducing them to the electron microscopy by explaining differences between light and electron imaging theory, comparing the size of glass slides with TEM grids, and briefly showing them samples on the TEM and SEM.
As we moved through the lab, we slowly transitioned from electron microscopy back to the land of light, where I pointed out our fluorescence microscope. We didn't linger there long; instead, we stopped to take a look at the confocal microscope. I had plucked a leaf from a bush outside the building right before they came in to put on the confocal so they could observe plants' natural autofluorescence. After explaining the concept of Z stacking, I opened up some of my images of glioblastoma cells to explain how using multiple laser lines and fluorescently tagged antibodies can answer a myriad of research questions. I ended by showing them some images used in a friend's protein localization experiment to provide real experimental context to confocal work.
The students were extremely inquisitive and answered my leading questions with fervor. I remember the awe I felt when I first saw, quite literally, a whole new world illuminated through the use of these scopes. Coming full circle by guiding others on their first journey through that world was so rewarding and thrilling that I hope to have more opportunities in the future to do the same. I saw a little bit of myself in their eyes from back when I was given my first tour of the OAF and the microscopes within.