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Dr. Jenny Magnes (from Vassar College, Physics and Astronomy Department), "The Hidden Dimension of Microscopic Life"

Date: 11/15/12
Time: 4:30-5:30 p.m.
Audience: Public
Sponsored By: School of Science and Engineering
Location: Coykendall Science Building Auditorium
Contact: Dr. Julio Jorge Gonzalez, x3724,

We investigate the locomotion and mechanosensation of microscopic species such as nematodes in a three-dimensional space. Because traditional microscope-based approaches limit study to a narrow, nearly two-dimensional view, the scientific community knows very little about the movement and behavioral patterns of microorganisms in three dimensions. Our novel analytical approach uses laser diffraction instead of microscope-based equipment, providing real-time analysis of freely swimming microscopic species. Diffraction patterns are created when light bends around an object and later interferes constructively and destructively. In our case, the diffraction patterns are then a representation of microscopic life in reciprocal space, in which small microscopic features are comparatively large and larger features are relatively small. The analysis of these beautiful reciprocal space images is less than straightforward, since the observance of some properties of light is forbidden by the physics of light itself!