Microscopy students visit the Melbourne Histology Platform

Visiting the Melbourne Histology Platfom has provided masters students from the BIOL90001 Microscopy for Biological Sciences subject an opportunity to gain additional knowledge in histology.

Building on the knowledge gained in the light microscopy practicals for the subject, in which students use a single-edged razor blade to cut sections of plant stems before staining them for observation using brighfield microscopy, a group of Master of Biotechnology students from the subject have taken their skills further by exploring the histology workflow in the platform.

After observing the instrumentation and processes involved in the different stages of histology, the students saw a microtome in action for the first time and tried their hand at collecting paraffin sections themselves.

4 students in white laboratory coats in the Melbourne Histology Platform. Following this, the students took the opportunity to visit the microscope to compare a plant stem cross-section cut stained with toluidine blue that had been cut on a microtome to the images of the sections they cut by hand in their week 2 practical class for the subject, seeing a clear difference in the clarity of cellular structures in the microtome sections.

Two images of a cross section of a plant stem viewed at 400x magnification stained with toluidine blue.

A cross-section of a Ruscus stem sectioned by hand and stained with toluidine blue (left) shows less clarity in the cellular details compared to a cross-section (of a water reed) stained the same way but sectioned on a paraffin microtome.

Finally, the students also had a chance to explore polarised light microscopy after first learning about it in week 3 of the subject.

4 students in white laboratory coats in the Melbourne Histology Platform. MHP manager Dr Chris Freelance, who leads the lectures and practical classes on light microscopy for BIOL90001, said "visits like these for the students who are interested are invaluable. Beyond getting to see the workflow in action in an actual real laboratory, it's an opportunity for students to try out some techniques that just can't be supported in teaching laboratories. I think this is a potential use of the University's research platforms that needs to be better explored".