As basic scientists we spend a lot of time quite removed from what the general public might consider a clear path to cure cancer or solve the world hunger problem. While this is perfectly justifiable as the impact of basic research is hard to predict ahead of time, I do think we have a responsibility to communicate our work to the public and engage especially the young generation. We found that experiments on live samples in combination with cutting edge technology such as smart phones and tablets works wonders to get kids excited.
The Fletcher lab has developed a hand held microscope mounted onto a cellphone, which we call CellScope. The first version was the result of an exam question in Professor Fletcher’s optics class, and since then the project has taken off in different directions. Many talented people have creatively modified the design and the optics to meet the multitude of applications this idea can be targeted to.
Development efforts in Dan Fletcher’s lab range from disease diagnostic in the developing world to coral reef monitoring to detect coral bleaching. A few years ago we started working on collaborations with schools and museums to teach the public about microscopy using CellScope.
Here is an early movie from the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco featuring our efforts in education using CellScope and a video of me explaining our outreach activity at the American Society of Cell Biology Meeting 2012 can be viewed here.
For more information about our CellScope Education Program, please visit our webpage!