Biology professor David Leaf teaches his students to use the most state-of-the-art microscopes on Western’s campus as part of a cell biology laboratory course. His goal is to simulate the real- world setting many of his students may find themselves in in the future. Typically, these microscopes are used in postgraduate research labs; it is rare for undergraduate students to have access to them. Leaf said the microscopes allow his students to research cells more efficiently.Because the microscope is automated, students can push buttons and the filters will be put into place, whereas in a manual microscope, there’s a learning curve to actually be able to put all the pieces together. “It makes it a lot more accessible for students,” Leaf said. The microscopes operate with a complex microperfusion system, meaning an extended lifespan for the cell cultures students examine in the lab. In the past, the department’s equipment only allowed them to observe living cells for about an hour, but the new system keeps the cells alive for days on end, Leaf said. “When they’re looking at the slides that they made, they have a particular sense of ownership of that which is pretty remarkable,” he said. Students spend roughly half of the course making and examining slides, while the other half of the course requires them to monitor the growth culture of the cells. They must be particularly meticulous in how they handle the slides or they risk contaminating them with bacteria. “You have to make the conditions in which they’re working as realistic as possible,” Leaf said. “If a student is competent to use a microscope and they’re competent in staining cells and tissue, you can’t make it so the experience is something that wouldn’t be reflected by what happens in the real world.” Senior Laurel Sugden studies cellular and molecular biology and said the course may give her an upper hand when applying to graduate schools where the same sort of microscopes are often used.