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Cutting-edge microscopy systems as remote teaching and research tools for undergraduate students

Whether due to illness, weather, safety, or other concerns, it is very difficult for biology students to gather meaningful and timely data without access to campus. This has been especially evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, in which most laboratory exercises have been conducted as a simulation. Simulated experiments provide a stopgap for certain courses, but for upper-level and research courses, they are often insufficient. Many new microscopy tools now on the market can be adapted to allow students to generate and analyze novel data with little aid from instructors. Remote brightfield-based systems like the CytoSMART Lux2 can be used to gather real-time insight into the progression of cell growth, cell migration, and cell viability over time. The data from these systems can be viewed via the Internet or downloaded for later analysis. Confocal microscopy also offers unique remote-learning opportunities. Because these fluorescence-based microscopes are controlled almost exclusively by a computer, free “remote desktop” software can allow students to learn how to use this cutting-edge technology and can also allow for the generation and analysis of novel data. While these systems can be expensive, they offer a variety of benefits for undergraduate students and researchers, whether they are in the laboratory or working remotely.
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