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UG celebrates 70th anniversary of Nobel prize Frits Zernike

09 November 2023

On November 4 1953, Professor Frits Zernike received the Nobel Prize in Physics. Exactly 70 years later, the University of Groningen is celebrating its platinum anniversary with a symposium and a public microscope day. Last Saturday, microscopes were on display at seventy locations throughout the province; at museums, libraries, mills and other surprising places. Visitors discovered the microscopic world hidden from the naked eye and were introduced to the beauty of microorganisms and structures.

FSE Science Newsroom | Myrna Kooij

Light microscope

Several microscopes are displayed at the University Museum in the city centre of Groningen. A father and his son are busy with a light microscope. This type uses different types of light to make the object under the microscope visible. Lenses magnify the image of the specimen. The father explains to his little son that the 10x on the microscope means that it magnifies the image 10 times. They look at a piece of leaf from a corn plant. 'I see lots of circles', the son exclaims. They turn the microscope and look with a stronger lens. 'I see a very long black border now', says the little boy. 'That's a cell wall', says the father.

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The light microscope in the University museum. (Photo: Redmar Hein)
Mommy, look! This looks like a cucumber.

A girl is curious and comes over: 'What are you looking at?' She tries to look through the microscope but cannot reach the eyepiece. Her mother lifts her up. 'Mommy, look! This looks like a cucumber', she exclaims as she looks through the microscope. Hanze University plant biology researcher Ties Ausma explains that they are looking at a piece of a stem. 'What's that tassel for?', the girl asks. Ausma shows her how to prepare a new specimen. With a special device, they cut off a tiny piece of the corn leaf. With the brush, they pick up the piece and place it on a glass slide. This he puts under the microscope. The girl looks through the microscope with concentration. 'Extraordinary huh', Ausma says.

'The Wereldclub of Wereldwinkel Loppersum also participated in the microscopy day organized by the University of Groningen last Saturday. Throughout the afternoon, children with their parents and grandparents came by to place objects under the microscope and view them on the big screen. Stones, plants, peppernuts, decaying wood with creatures from the garden, or potatoes with iodine to discover starch—all very interesting, but the creatures were the most exciting, and the peppernuts were the most delicious.

The volunteers who had cleaned the Schipsloot as part of the Nature Working Day came by with duckweed. In the photo, Mr. Schudde is explaining either the antennas of a bee or the structure of a flower petal. Photos could also be taken directly through the microscope, and these will be sent to the participants later. It was such a success that the WorldClub plans to organize another afternoon next spring. They are curious to see which plants and creatures will be found in nature then.' - Martijn Pot

Electron microscope

The electron microscopy centres, both at the UMCG and the RUG, also opened their doors to the public. Throughout the day, researchers and students gave guided tours and told the visitors how they use the microscopes in their research. In the basement of the Physics and Chemistry building are several electron microscopes - which will be moved to the new Feringa building in the coming years. These microscopes are mainly for studying materials. A group of nine people, including two children, are given a guided tour by Professor Bart Kooi. He explains: 'The smaller you want to look, the bigger the machine.'

One of the latest electron microscopes, is located in a noisy room. 'That noise comes from the hard disk, 70 terabite. That device makes a lot of sound, so you don't want to be in this room', says Kooi. The microscope can be operated remotely, even from Friesland they can perform experiments with it. A boy asks, 'What can I do with this microscope?' As an example, Kooi mentions building aeroplanes and cars. 'If you want to see how a material behaves, you have to look at the atoms through a microscope', he says. Electron microscopes are also used in the medical world. Kooi says: 'The Corona virus got its name because researchers saw a crown shape, a corona, when they looked at the virus through the electron microscope.' At the end of the tour, Kooi asks the group if his story was clear. One man replies, 'I could understand the big picture.'

Curious about how an electron microscope works exactly? In 2019, we wrote this article about the arrival of the latest transmission eletron microscope (TEM).

Last modified:22 November 2023 10.17 a.m.
View this page in: Nederlands

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