Spring Quarter: April 11 - May 3, 2024
Instructors: Louis Kerr and Carsten Wolff (MBL)
UChicago Course Number: BIOS27724 / NSCI21515

Course Description:

Imaging has been, and continues to be, a critical tool in biological research.  This course will introduce students to the fundamentals of imaging but will quickly advance to discussing cutting edge advancements in the field.  More importantly, the course will focus on hands-on opportunities to use state-of-the art microscopes, as well as provide an opportunity for students to design and execute an original research project which makes use of the skills gained during the course.  Students will begin by building their own, simple microscopes, and then move on to learning how to use confocal and electron microscopes, as well as mastering techniques for fixed and live sample preparation.  In addition, students will analyze the data they collect using several software tools.  Lectures will be designed to introduce each topic, as well as highlight limitations and challenges in the field.

Learning Objectives and Outcomes:

  • Be able to describe the basic parts of the microscope and their function.
  • Be able to construct a simple transmitted light microscope using optical components on a mechanical rail system.
  • Be able to set up and use a standard microscope.
  • Be able to define some of the different modes of light and electron microscopy used in biological research as discussed in lectures and in the iBiology videos.
  • Be able to explain transmitted and epi-fluorescence modes of light microscopy.
  • Be able to describe why and how to determine which mode of microscopy would be suitable for an experiment.
  • Be able to utilize and explain basic image analysis concepts.
  • Be able to image Drosophila and Parhyale embryos with fluorescent and electron microscopy.
  • Be able to organize your thoughts and processes to independently work on a lab assignment or research project.
  • Be able to present on the assignments and research project.


  • By the end of the course, students will have a solid understanding of the fundamental principles of biological light and electron microscopy and be able to use a standard light microscope and have a fundamental understanding of the components of these and more sophisticated imaging systems. This understanding will come from lectures, videos and hands-on laboratory sessions along with work on an independent project.

Course Structure:

  • Lectures: Topics related to the various modes of microscopy useful in biological research.
  • Laboratory and research projects. In this section you will apply what you learned in the lectures to a research project. We will assist, but you will complete the experimental design, lab work, imaging, and analysis. You will be using the same tools and approaches as we do in our own labs. In pairs you will be leading your own research project but also, you will be working as part of a team.
  • Invited speakers and presentations: This section will expose you to current research directly from scientists working in diverse aspects microscopy related research. There will be the opportunity to ask questions and meet with the speakers.
  • We will review the previous day’s activities and preview that day’s activities at 9AM