Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Enjoying the small things

The Microscience and Microscopy Congress (mmc) is the standout event of the microscopist’s calendar. This July, hundreds of delegates signed into a virtual mmc2021 to see the latest research and advancements in microscopy, spanning both physical and life sciences.

Taking place over 4 days, the congress covered an array of topics with over forty half-day parallel sessions. Suggestive of the future direction of the field, common themes were the need for robust image analysis workflows for complex data, and an emphasis on developing new and exotic instrumentation to study difficult specimens. For example, Lisa Kölln (University of Strathclyde, UK) presented an innovative method for improving structured fluorescence signal by means of a semi-supervised machine learning method, named ‘Label2Label’1. Dr Heba Sailem (University of Oxford, UK) reported a timely resource for presenting complex multi-variable image data, which could be adapted for a variety of data2. We also saw the use of 3D single-molecule parallax microscopy from Dr Helen Miller (University of Oxford, UK), whereby parallax optics are combined with Single Molecule Localisation Microscopy (SMLM) to enable rapid and adaptable 3D single-molecule tracking in live systems.

Plenary talks ranged from the use of deep-learning in computational microscopy to the advancements in archaeal imaging—ancient extremophilic microbes that could contain clues to the origins of life. Prof. Joanne Etheridge (Monash University, Australia) provided an excellent overview of 4D-STEM (four-dimensional scanning transmission electron microscopy) for materials science, while Prof. Janet Iwasa (University of Utah, USA) gave stunning insights to her work on creating informative and accessible data visualisations—see the Animation Lab.

Measurement tools for materials science was a recurring topic at mmc2021. Methods optimised for the characterisation of 2D materials, nanostructures, and soft and hybrid materials each received dedicated sessions. One standout presentation on this topic was given by Dr Wing Chung Tsoi (Swansea University, UK), whose Raman-based approach allows the changing properties of optoelectronic and semiconducting devices to be tracked in situ in technologically relevant environments3. In addition, free-electron techniques such as ultrafast transmission electron microscopy and photon-induced near-field electron microscopy are permitting new insight into extreme light-matter interaction in the quantum regime, as described by Prof. Ido Kaminer (Technion, Israel).

My personal highlight was the Early Career Symposium, which featured a selection of great talks from Early Career Researchers (ECRs). Dr Michele Conroy (Imperial College London, UK) provided thought-provoking insights to her latest research, where she furthered the field of materials science by using 4D-STEM with in situ biasing to analyse charged topologies in ferroelectric thin films4. Dr Kevin Whitley (Newcastle University, UK), winner of the Royal Microscopical Society Early Career Award 2021, presented his technical solution to study bacterial division by innovative microfluidics combined with SMLM5. Moreover, the ECR panel on alternate career pathways and funding was highly engaging and interactive—as good as any in-person alternative.

The mmc meetings are held biennially and feature different scientific themes during each event. This provides a regular forum for the dissemination of new research findings in topical areas of microscopy and measurement science. The smooth transition to an online mmc2021 ensured the continuation of this forum and widened participation from overseas delegates. The next mmc will return to Manchester in 2023 and will, once again, welcome researchers from across the globe to showcase their findings.

Credit: Center for Disease Control’s Public Health Image Library

References

  1. 1.

    Kölln, L. S., Salem, O., Valli, J., Hansen, C. G. & McConnell, G. Label2label: training a neural network to selectively restore cellular structures in fluorescence microscopy. Preprint at bioRxiv https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.12.21.423789 (2020).

  2. 2.

    Khawatmi, M., Steux, Y., Zourob, S. & Sailem, H. ShapoGraphy: a glyph-oriented visualisation approach for creating pictorial representations of bioimaging data. Preprint at bioRxiv https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.04.07.438792 (2021).

  3. 3.

    Barbé, J. et al. In situ investigation of perovskite solar cells’ efficiency and stability in a mimic stratospheric environment for high-altitude pseudo-satellites. J. Mater. Chem. 8, 1715–1721 (2020).

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Moore, K., Bangert, U. & Conroy, M. Aberration corrected STEM techniques to investigate polarization in ferroelectric domain walls and vortices. APL Mater. 9, 020703 (2021).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Whitley, K. D. et al. FtsZ treadmilling is essential for Z-ring condensation and septal constriction initiation in Bacillus subtilis cell division. Nat. Commun. 12, 2448 (2021).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Liam Mark Rooney.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The author declares no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Rooney, L.M. Enjoying the small things. Commun Phys 4, 203 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42005-021-00707-z

Download citation

Search

Quick links