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Lehigh’s microscopy prowess recognized from Chicago to Japan

From left, Masashi Watanabe, David Williams, and Matthias Falk in Sapporo.

Lehigh faculty demonstrated the university’s unparalleled microscopy assets at recent international conferences in Chicago and in Sapporo, Japan.

At the Microscopy and Microanalysis 2006 meeting at Chicago’s Navy Pier, the world’s largest annual microscopy meeting, faculty displayed the remote-control capabilities of one of the world’s most powerful transmission electron microscopes (TEMs).

At the 16th International Microscopy Congress (IMC) in Sapporo, three professors gave presentations on advances in electron and light microscopy and met with Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

Lehigh has long been a powerhouse in electron microscopy. Its materials science and engineering faculty have served as presidents of top microscopy societies and editors of leading microscopy journals. The department’s annual Microscopy School, founded in 1970, is the largest of its kind in the world.

Lehigh is also the only university in the world with two aberration-corrected TEMs, which can determine the chemical identity of individual atoms in crystalline materials. This helps engineers create new uses for materials by tailoring their physical, mechanical, electronic and chemical properties. Internet 2 and special software allow scientists at distant sites to operate the TEMs, and to view specimens, from their computers.

Focus on Lehigh

The Chicago conference featured a remote, live display of the atomic structure of a strontium titanate crystal and other nanometer-scale images as they were being resolved by Lehigh’s aberration-corrected JEOL 2200FS TEM. One nanometer is equal to one one-billionth of a meter, or about the width of five atoms.

At the conference, David Williams, vice provost for research and co-author of the world’s leading TEM textbook, discussed Lehigh’s aberration-corrected TEMs and showed examples of nanoscale analysis and atomic-level imaging of materials. His address was titled “Atomic-Scale Characterization of Metals and Alloys Using Spherical-Aberration Corrected Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy.”

Masashi Watanabe, senior research scientist in the Center for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, gave an invited talk in Chicago on “Progress of Elemental/Compositional Mapping via X-rays and Energy-Loss Electrons in Analytical Electron Microscopes.”

Chris Kiely, director of Lehigh’s Nanocharacterization Laboratory and professor of materials science and engineering, and Arlan Benscoter, research scientist in the department, also gave invited presentations at the Chicago conference.

Benscoter received the Henry Clifton Sorby Award, the highest award given by the International Metallographic Society, for a lifetime of leadership and teaching in metallurgical microscopy. The award is named for the 19th-century British geologist, metallurgist and microscopist who invented the technique of metallography.

Benscoter has taught short courses on metallography—the art of using optical microscopy to take photographs of the surfaces of materials—for 25 years for ASM International, the world’s premiere organization for materials scientists and engineers. He has run the materials science and engineering department’s optical microscopy labs since 1987, and is co-author of Metallographer’s Guide: Practices and Procedures for Irons and Steels, which was published by ASM in 2002.

A meeting with the emperor

Early in September, a few weeks after the Chicago meeting, Williams and Watanabe traveled with Matthias Falk, assistant professor of biological sciences, to Sapporo to the 16th International Microscopy Congress (IMC). The quadrennial conference is considered the world’s most important microscopy conference.

Lehigh’s materials science and engineering faculty are regularly invited to the IMC conference. The Sapporo meeting was the first IMC congress that a biological sciences professor also attended.

This time-lapse sequence taken by Michelle Piehl, research scientist in biological sciences, who works with Matthias Falk, reveals the internalization of gap junctions, in green, into a cell loaded with red fluorescent dye. “In this image,” says Falk, “we show for the first time that entire gap junctions can be internalized to form cytoplasmic double-membrane vesicles.”

Falk gave an invited talk titled “Gap Junction Biosynthesis and Degradation Studied in Living Cells.” Gap junctions are a type of cell-to-cell junction through which cells communicate with each other.

Falk is a leader in the use of fluorescence light microscopy and derivatives of proteins to study gap junction biosynthesis and function in living cells. He is particularly interested in the physiological and pathological conditions that can sever the junctions and cause cells to migrate or proliferate in an uncontrolled manner.

The results of Falk’s research into gap junctions will be published in an upcoming issue of Molecular Biology of the Cell, the official journal of the American Society for Cell Biologists, a prestigious, peer-reviewed international publication.

Also in Japan, Williams chaired a symposium on “Advances in Instrumentation and/or Methods of X-ray Analysis/Cathodoluminescence in the Electron Microscope,” and Watanabe gave an invited talk on “X-ray Analysis in Spherical-aberration-corrected Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy.”

While at the IMC conference in Japan, Falk, Watanabe and Williams met with Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

The three researchers also attended a one-hour concert by the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra, which was conducted by Takaseki Ken. The orchestra performed Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstances,” Dvorak’s “Slavonic Dance op. 2, no. 2,” Mascagni’s “Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana,” and Toyama Yuzo’s “Rhapsody.”

Williams said the attendance by the Emperor and Empress, along with the orchestra concert, “demonstrate the deep appreciation for microscopy in Japan and underscore the importance of microscopy for modern science.”

--Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Thursday, October 26, 2006

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