New microscope proves size matters

It’s the little things that can make scientists happy.

Just ask Faculty of Science and Technology Associate Dean, Tom MacAlister, whose smile is brighter than normal thanks to the delivery of a new scanning electron microscope.

Faculty of Science and Technology's associate dean, Tom MacAlister demonstrates the new microscope.

“It is exciting because we have a real piece of research equipment here,” says MacAlister.

“It is a wonderful teaching tool and it gets students involved in research at a fairly high level.”

The desktop Hitachi TM-1000 arrived at Mount Royal in late August. It provides 3D images using an accelerated electron beam rather than light as an illumination source.

MacAlister explains this microscope can reach 10,000 times magnification without sacrificing resolution.

While demonstrating the new microscope’s abilities, MacAlister zooms in on a bug that is difficult to see with the naked eye.

Looking at a close-up is impressive — then he zooms in so we can see bacteria cells on hair on the leg of the bug.

It’s what MacAlister calls a “wow” image.

“The microscope is so simple to use and I think it will inspire people, in particular our students, to dig deeper into the sciences.”

The potential is so great for this microscope — not only for science disciplines such as geology, biology and engineering, but also for archeology in the Faculty of Arts and possibly Nursing.

The microscope is available to all Mount Royal scholars who might see utility in this new instrument.

Several groups teamed with the Faculty of Science and Technology to ensure the purchase of this $92,000 microscope.

“Acquiring the microscope was truly a group effort," says MacAlister.

"The faculty lead the way with the support of Deanna Renyk of the Laboratory Support Centre and Irene Langille of the Office of the Provost and Vice-President Academic.

"Both of these individuals made significant contributions in both dollars and time in the effort to acquire this new teaching and research tool,”

“We’re very happy and proud of the institution’s commitment and dedication to scientific scholarship as exemplified by this acquisition.”

Those wishing to book time on the new electron microscope can contact MacAlister.

— Anika Van Wyk, Oct. 8, 2009