Sharing microscopes with fellow scientists is part of working in science and research, however, this inevitably means having to suffer the laziness and dirty habits of other users.
If you are already working in a shared facility, you will no doubt recognize the following scenarios. If you are new to the wonderful world of microscopy, here are some of the joys you can look forward to.
Immersion oil- it’s for the whole microscope, not just for objectives
I often wonder if the people I share microscopes with come from an engineering background and somehow get confused between a delicate optical instrument and a steam engine. It seems that some users think that microscopes need liberal oiling before use. In reality, you only need one drop of immersion oil when using an immersion objective, but this is obviously lost on some people. No, one drop of oil would never be enough to get this machine running smoothly- we need oil on all of the other objectives, on the stage, on the focus wheels and we might as well oil the desk whilst we are at it.
It’s a wonder that some people don’t just slide of the microscope bench.
My work is so good, I’ve left it for you to see
There is a subtle difference between a glass recycling point and a microscope facility. However, some poor souls get confused between the two. Why put a slide in a glass bin when you can leave it on the stage for others to see? You too can marvel at how terrible their staining techniques are. Better still, why not leave piles of slides delicately balanced on the bench- microscope slide Jenga anyone?
Too busy and important to change out of surgical scrubs
Having worked in a research facility within a teaching hospital, real scientists had to share microscopes with medical students. Medics need to let everyone know how important they are by wearing their surgical scrubs absolutely everywhere. This uniform is great for the operating theatre, but surely they could take two minutes to change before coming into the microscope suite? I really don’t want to share space with someone wearing the same outfit they had on when they were rummaging in some body cavity or orifice. What’s even more worrying is that the medics presumably go back into theatre in the same scrubs after gracing us with their presence. Well, at least with all of that immersion oil splattered everywhere it should make orifice examinations run a bit more smoothly!
Free make-over whilst you work!
Eye make-up is wonderful for enhancing the eyes of some women, male and female goths/emos and so on, but it doesn’t quite have the desired effect on aging male professors. The rubber eye-cups around the microscope eye pieces are great for collecting eye liner, mascara and eye shadow and then inadvertently re-applying on the next user.
You too can have longer lashes after looking at your slides.
On a more serious note- the eye cups can also harbour eye infections such as conjunctivitis. If you are unfortunate enough to have such an infection, it’s best to refrain from microscopy until it’s cleared up lest all the other users of the microscope end up with red and weeping eyes.
Here’s an idea- after using a microscope, simply clean the eye cups ready for the next user.
The microscope facility refectory
You don’t usually see microscopes in the refectories and cafes within an institute and there’s a reason for that. However, it would seem that eating and drinking in a microscope suite is perfectly fine for some. It’s still a laboratory though with plenty of potential for ingesting nasty chemicals along with your coffee and muffins.
Before you know it, the microtome will be getting used to slice ham and cheese for sandwiches.
Scared of the dark
If you are afraid of the dark, the microscope facility can be a scary place. This must be the reason that microscope lamps are left on. All of the time. On full power. This might be news for some people, but the dial which controls the light intensity can also be turned back down. Try it the next time you have finished an imaging session (but perhaps take a torch with you if the fear gets too much).