Q. Can I visit the JIC with my school to see the microscopes?
A. In the past, we agreed to a few demonstrations
for school groups each year. However, the number of requests
is becoming unmanageable so we have had to draw a halt to
this. We hope that this website will answer many of your
questions without the requirement for a demonstration. However,
we are considering launching an annual open day where teachers
can apply in advance to bring their classes to see the electron
microscopes, but this will be restricted to students doing
A-levels sciences only. It is difficult to accommodate
large numbers of people in the microscopy facility, mainly
because the rooms are designed for use by only one or two
people at a time and so there is simply not enough space. For
further information, please contact the JIC
Communications Team (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Q. What kinds of electron microscopy techniques are available
A. The short answer is: TEM and SEM. For a
more detailed guide to the exact techniques available, take
a look at the 'Facilities' section
of this website.
Q. How long does it take to prepare typical samples
for viewing in the electron microscope?
A. For the TEM, upon receiving a live sample,
a typical turn-around time is ~1-2 weeks for fixation,
embedding, sectioning and contrast staining grids before
they can be imaged. If immuno-labelling is required,
it will be at least two weeks. For
SEM, sample preparation time is generally much shorter, sometimes
only a matter of a few minutes, especially if the samples
Q. Why does the sample size have to be so small?
A. For the TEM, samples must ideally be less than
1 mm3 to begin with for good preservation of morphology
during the fixation stage. The main limitation is the speed
and extent of penetration of fixatives (typically glutaraldehyde).
If the fixative doesn't penetrate throughout the tissue,
then it will be poorly preserved. So if, for example, we
want to look at a leaf, the leaf will have to initially be
cut into lots of tiny pieces, each around <1 mm3,
at the time of fixation. Then, in general, we will
only section one or two small pieces to get an idea of what
the sample is like. Remember, if you’re going to have
to cut slices of the sample that are only ~100 nm thick
for imaging, then 1 mm provides ~10,000 slices — way
too many to search for a rare feature. To "preview" or
find interesting sections of the sample, we typically perform
light microscopy of stained "semi-thin" sections
(typically 0.5 µm) first. We would then focus
our efforts in thinner slices.
Q. I am a local teacher. Can I have some electron
micrographs for use as teaching material in the classroom?
A. We advise you to look at the other websites
we recommend, where you can find a wealth of teaching
material and images. If you don't find what you're
looking for, you could contact the JIC
Communications Team (email@example.com)
and/or the TSN (Teacher
Scientist Network) with further details of your request. We
may be able to help.
Q. Is it possible to buy some of the images taken on the
A. We have a set of six postcards. They
are black and white, scanning electron micrographs, taken
by Kim Findlay (our senior electron microscopist), on the
JIC’s electron microscopes. Please
contact the JIC
Communications Team (firstname.lastname@example.org) for
Q. Would it be possible to come
and use an electron microscope?
A. We do not permit members of the public to use
the electron microscopes; sorry! We are sure you will understand
that these are expensive pieces of equipment, requiring extensive
training to be able to use them and access is required at
all times for the research staff and students working at
Q. I'm doing an art project based on images of food decay/cells
etc and would like to visit the microscopy department for
inspiration. Is that possible?
A. Please contact the JIC
Communications Team (email@example.com),
telling us specifically (if you can) what you want to see. We
may be able to make arrangements for you to have access to
some images but cannot guarantee a visit to the microscopy
department per se.
Q. I would like to get some images taken of my own samples
on your microscopes. Is it possible and how much would
A. We do occasionally accept projects from external
requestors, but these are confined to legitimate scientific
collaborators and, very occasionally, sometimes an industrial
company, but never from members of the public. However,
we have to charge at full economic cost, which is very expensive.
If you have a legitimate request and want a quote for your
project, please contact the Microscopy department directly
The mystery image on the "About Microscopy" page is of the
upper surface of the petal of a common daisy flower from
the lawn at JIC. It was imaged on the Zeiss SEM.