Research scientist Page Baluch manages the W.M. Keck Bioimaging Laboratory at Arizona State University (ASU). She helps scientists of all kinds obtain the imaging data they need, from organisms as diverse as plants and bacteria. Although her lab has many tools, the popular confocal microscopes produce the high-quality and high-resolution images researchers want for publication.
“Our most interesting instrument is a new Leica SP8 confocal that has a tunable white light laser and light sheet,” Baluch said. “This instrument has an inverted configuration, which allows for live cell imaging, as well as a light sheet module which replaces the condenser with an image-capturing objective fitted with TwinFlect mirrors.”
Baluch notes that “more people are becoming interested in live cell imaging and super resolution. When we select an instrument to purchase, we try to equip it so it can be easily upgraded in the future with advanced technologies.”
Researchers frequently devise new imaging technologies on the Leica SP5. “One group is studying biofilms and needs to visualize their samples in an aqueous environment so the bacterial layers retain their 3D configuration. They will use dipping lenses, which have long working distances, to observe electricity-generating microorganisms in microbial fuel cells,” Baluch said. “Another group, working with NASA, is testing chambers that will be used to grow cells in space. They need the upright configuration and long working distance objectives to monitor cell viability.”
So that they gain foundational imaging training, many ASU professors require their graduate students to take Baluch’s Bioimaging and Cell Biotechnology courses. Baluch says working with students keeps her immersed in research as well as energized. “It is a great feeling to experience accomplishments through your students and to see how that helps shape their lives and future careers,” she said.
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Mary Spiro is ASCB's Science Writer and Social Media Manager.