03 November 2008

DIY microscope transforms university research

Colchester Campus

Neil Kad with his DIY microscope

A resourceful lecturer at the University of Essex has turned his hand to a spot of DIY and built a high-tech microscope that will transform the University’s ability to undertake specialist medical and biological research.

Working in collaboration with a top scientist in the States and making use of the university’s excellent design facilities to make some parts from scratch, Dr Neil Kad has built the so-called TIRF (Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence) microscope over the last eight months. He even managed to buy one part for it on EBAY for £5 that would have cost £1000 new.

The microscope enables scientists and researchers to examine cells millions of times more closely and more clearly than a standard microscope, and is already being used extensively in areas such as forensics and pharmacology.

Using funding from the university and from the Royal Society, Neil managed to build the microscope from scratch at a cost of just £40,000. It would have cost over £200,000 to buy it new. “It has been a real labour of love,” he explained, “but now it’s ready to be unveiled and to be put to use here at the university and that’s fantastic not just for me, but many of my colleagues who can now be trained to use the microscope and will be able to use it for their research.”

Praising Neil’s initiative and resourcefulness, Professor Nelson Fernandez from the Department of Biological Sciences said: “The introduction of a TIRF-equipped microscope to the cell bio-imaging facility opens new possibilities for novel applications, for example, for studying how DNA repair occurs in real-time.”

Neil Kad’s and his American collaborator on the project, Bennett van Houten, from the University of Pittsburgh, will officially unveil the microscope later this month to a panel of specially-invited guests.

For further information please contact the University of Essex communications office on 01206 874377 or e-mail comms@essex.ac.uk.

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