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Dakota Wesleyan University upgrades microscopes for biology lab

Dr. Tim Mullican, professor of biology, says two recently purchased Richter microscopes with cameras will elevate students’ experiences when studying specimens.

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Students work on cell identification on their iPads after capturing images directly from the microscope.<br/><br/>(Images: Courtesy of Dakota Wesleyan University)
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Biology students at Dakota Wesleyan University have new technology to use when in the lab.

Dr. Tim Mullican, professor of biology, says two recently purchased Richter microscopes with cameras will elevate students’ experiences when studying specimens.

With the new tools, students can capture images and send them to their desktop or handheld devices. From there, students can study the structure of a sample, save a high-res photo micrograph, and make notes and identifications directly on the digital photo. And, they can share the images with others in the network.

Mullican said it was years ago that he first introduced students to microscopes with cameras, but they weren’t as user-friendly as the new scopes. The old ones, which used a cable to connect with computers, wouldn't work once Microsoft updated to Windows 10. He fixed that problem by purchasing an attachment, but the low resolution of the images made it difficult to make out much detail in samples students were studying.

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Dr. Tim Mullican, center, is seen focusing one of the WI-FI camera-enabled microscopes. (Images: Courtesy of Dakota Wesleyan University)

“I mean, it worked but they weren’t super sharp, crisp images,” he said.

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With money from an endowment fund, “I was planning on buying ones like we had before, or maybe slightly updated ones,” Mullican said.

When he heard about the new microscopes and their capabilities, such as being able to connect, with WI-FI, to a tablet or other device, and with the ability to have-dozen people connect to it at once, he became interested.

“I thought ‘Oh, that sounds really nice,” he said. “I could see some possibilities and so I took a look at them and decided we’d try a couple. I purchased two of them, and I've been using them this semester in a class lab that I teach called invertebrate zoology.”

He said using the new WI-FI-enabled camera microscopes, students can work together and collaborate more easily on projects. As such it enables more active learning.

“I think it's a lot better than what we used when a student just looked through a microscope at things and maybe drew a picture of it,” Mullican said. “This way they can capture it and they can label it; and by labeling, they know the different parts of the organism they're looking at. If you write something down, you're more likely to remember it. If you just look at it and say, ‘Well, that's nice.’ You're not as likely to remember it.”

Andrew Weeks is an award-winning journalist who has reported for a number of newspapers and magazines. He currently is the editor of Prairie Business, the premier business magazine of the northern plains. The magazine covers various industries and business topics in the Dakotas and western Minnesota.
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