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Getting online help in microscopy: a review of the best Web-based resources for microscopy researchers and enthusiasts.

In-depth knowledge of light and electron microscopy is limited in today's laboratories. Luckily, there are a number of online microscopy resources that can help make the difference--not only for incoming grad students and post-docs, but also for experienced scientists seeking to expand their laboratory's capabilities.


E-resources for EM

For scientists and members of the public who want a better understanding of the basics of electron microscopy (EM), a wealth of information is available online.

Boston's Museum of Science offers an easy primer on electron microscopes, along with a nice gallery and some interesting links. Although this site has not been substantively updated in years, the material on it provides a good basic understanding for users who may be new to electron microscopy. Another resource for people who have specific questions in the field of EM is a British-based listserver at the Univ. of Leeds, which is designed specifically for users of electron microscopes and analytical spectroscopy equipment. It has tips, ideas, and notification of conferences.

One of the best collections of Web offerings about all facets of electron and light microscopy, including everything from basic primer information to techniques and instrumentation guides are compiled in a collection of articles on a site called MicroscopyInfo. This Web site is the brainchild of Dr. Sue Brandom, who says that 40,000 individuals come from around the world each month to learn from what they read on her site. "Our goal is to be an active, current place focusing on new techniques, advances in technology, and news," Brandom says.

Shedding some light

Of all the microscopy resources available to Internet users, the most extensive is a comprehensive group of Web sites run by one man--Michael Davidson, of The Florida State University. Davidson runs four microscopy Web sites that together comprise some 20,000 HTML pages online, including more than 15 million words and untold images. Together, these sites receive more than 50,000 unique visitors a day from throughout the world.

The largest of them, Molecular Expressions, is a compendium of articles, JAVA tutorials, introductory and advanced articles, and useful charts and diagrams on virtually every topic in light microscopy. It is the largest compendium of microscopy education available anywhere. His other main sites include MicroscopyU, which he operates for Nikon, an Olympus-sponsored microscopy educational site, and an Olympus confocal site that has the largest library of confocal fluorescence videos anywhere.

Davidson and his capable staff of 17 operate the sites and several others out of a busy office at the University's National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (NHMFL) facility in Tallahassee, Fla. The monumental resource they've created grew out of unlikely beginnings--neckties. Davidson, back in the early-1990s, developed a line of men's ties depicting images of a variety of beautiful and striking crystals.

Later, he expanded with a line that featured alcoholic beverages (their slogan said they were the best way to "tie one on"), which were picked up and distributed by a major necktie company, with some of the proceeds going to charity. The ties were sold in department stores across the U.S., and went on to earn Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the NHMFL millions of dollars. Some of the funds became the seed money for Davidson's pet project--the world's foremost microscopy resource center online.

True to his dream, over the past decade Davidson has co-authored articles on his sites with more than 100 of the top names in light microscopy. Ultimately, Davidson believes, online publication may replace much journal writing. "The world can be your peer review committee," he says. "With the rate that new information is coming into this field, it is impossible to update and print new editions fast enough to keep up with the growth of knowledge. Sites like mine are on the front lines of providing the latest information on new fluorescence probes, research techniques and more."

Ilene Semiatin

Ilene Semiatin is a freelance writer

based in White Plains, N. Y.

The author thanks Simon Watkins, PhD FRC Path., Vice Chair for Cell Biology and Physiology at the University of Pittsburgh and Director of the university's Center for Biologic Imaging, for his support in researching this article.

Valuable Microscopy Resources

Electron Microscopy

Boston Museum of Leeds Univ., Microscopy List Server--www. JEOL Online Tutorial on ApplicationsResources/ElectronOptics/DocumentsDownloads/tabid/320 /DMXModule/692/Default.aspx?Entryld=5)

Light Microscopy

Microscopy Microscopy Molecular Olympus Confocal Microscopy Olympus Microscopy Education

Key Microscopy Organizations

Microscopy Society of

Micrograph Resources

Micro*Scope-- Wim van Raul Margaret Dennis

Industry Resources

Nikon Small Olympus
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Title Annotation:MICROSCOPY
Author:Semiatin, Ilene
Publication:R & D
Date:Dec 1, 2006
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