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Life Sciences students working with new microscopes in the Anatomy Learning Centre

Who says technology drives us apart?

When students started using the new microscopes that were procured for the School of Medicine last November, Rick Hunt, the recently retired Coordinator of the Anatomy Learning Centre, noticed a difference right away.

 

Actually, he noticed several differences.

 

Most obviously, he saw an unmistakable upgrade in the quality of the images that the students were able to see. These 10 new microscopes are state-of-the-art equipment that can capture images at 8 mega pixels and adjust in real time. “You couldn’t even adjust the microscope fast enough to create a lag if you wanted to,” Rick says. They are also extremely easy to use. Within 30 seconds of hooking them up, the students are able to see crystal-clear microscopic images on the TV.

 

More importantly, though, he noticed a difference in how the students interacted with each other. They were all so excited by the images they were seeing through the microscopes that they naturally flocked together to collaborate. Gathered around a microscope and screen in groups of 3 or more, students looked at the slides in front of them, eagerly suggesting which aspect of the slide to zoom in on and quizzing each other about the structures they were looking at.

 

Rick retired from Queen’s at the end of last year, but, before then, he had worked at the university for over 35 years. In all that time, he cannot remember students being as excited about working with technology – or with each other – as they have been with the new microscopes.

Rick Hunt discussing the microscopes with Life Sciences students
Rick Hunt discussing the new microscopes with Life Sciences students

Before these new microscopes arrived, Rick mainly noticed students working individually. They were also prone to looking at copies of the slides online rather than using the microscopes themselves.

 

Since the microscopes were set up in November, though, Rick says the lab is full of conversation, even laughter. He also noticed graduate students from a variety of programs coming to the lab together now, when before they had usually come alone.

 

This technology and the space it is in is unlocking a previously untapped potential for students to work together to learn through microscopy. 

Life Sciences students project image from a new microscope onto the screen.
Life Sciences students project image from a new microscope onto the screen.

Procuring new microscopes might at first sound like a simple technological upgrade, but it is clear that it has large ramifications for how our students will experience this aspect of their education.

 

The primary users of these microscopes will be medical students and graduate students in Faculty of Health Sciences programs. But undergraduate students in the Life Sciences program will also be able to work with them, as you can see from the pictures I’m sharing here. Our on-campus Bachelor of Health Sciences students – who will be coming to Queen’s in the fall – will also most likely have opportunities to use these new microscopes during their education.

 

On a final note, I’d like to thank Rick Hunt both for talking with me about how students are using these new microscopes and, more importantly, for his decades of outstanding service to Queen’s. I’d also like to welcome the new Laboratory and Educational Coordinator, Logan Bale, who is already doing great work in the Anatomy Learning Centre.

 

How have microscopes or other technologies impacted your education? Let me know in the comments below, or better yet, please stop by the Macklem House. My door is always open.

 

--Richard

 

Thank you to Andrew Willson for his assistance in preparing this blog.

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