The high school robotics team from the AGBU Alex and Marie Manoogian School of Southfield visited Lawrence Technological University on Feb. 7 to see the environmental scanning electron microscope (ESEM) in LTU’s College of Engineering.
The students were accompanied by Manoogian School Principal Hosep Torossian and Anca Stefan, the robotics team advisor and a former faculty member at LTU.
The group was hosted by LTU President Emeritus Richard Marburger, who is chairman of the board of the Manoogian School. The student team has also worked with LTU Professor CJ Chung.
Assistant Professor Yawen Li of LTU’s biomedical engineering program demonstrated how the advanced microscope works.
The microscope can produce high-resolution images revealing details less than a nanometer (one-billionth of a meter) in size. To put this into perspective, a very fine human hair is about 10,000 nanometers wide. The maximum magnification of more than 500,000 times is about 250 times the magnification limit of the best light microscopes.
The powerful microscope can be used to scientifically characterize wet, oily, porous, and soft materials that are traditionally considered impossible to study using conventional microscopy techniques, according to Li, who was the principal investigator for the National Science Foundation grant that brought the first ESEM to the Detroit area.
“The environmental scanning electron microscope has strengthened the existing materials research infrastructure at Lawrence Tech and our partnering institutions, and it enhances the research and educational experiences of a large number of students at Lawrence Tech and other universities,” Li said.
To demonstrate the capabilities of the powerful ESEM microscope, Li used a hair from one of the students and a dead ant one of the students found.
“The presentation was an eye-opener for all team members. They were talking about the hair and the ant all the way to our school, 2.9 miles away,” Torossian said.
Marburger noted that the presentation captured the imagination of these high school students. “Dr. Yawen Li truly ‘connected’ with these bright high school students. Her brilliantly clear explanations kept them spellbound for the entire hour,” he said.