About Us


The Microscopy and Imaging Facility (MIF) was established as an interdepartmental lab, with the purpose of aiding in the research of the Museum's scientific community. The mission of the MIF is to provide an interdepartmental facility that contains state-of-the-art imaging instruments and image analysis software that would otherwise be too expensive for individual departments to purchase and maintain. The MIF staff is trained to provide expert assistance in the use of all the equipment found in the lab.

The MIF currently houses two scanning electron microscopes (SEM), each equipped with x-ray microanalysis detectors, as well as a confocal laser scanning microscope (CLSM), a transmission electron microscope (TEM), an x-ray computed tomography scanner (CT Scanner). Detailed information on each individual instrument can be found here.

The SEM utilizes electron optics to obtain magnifications well above that of a light microscope. The MIF houses both a field emission SEM, capable of resolving details on coated samples as small as 2 nanometers, and an environmental pressure SEM, capable of imaging both uncoated and wet samples. In addition to imaging, each SEM can be used to study the elemental make up of samples through x-ray microanalysis or energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS). Additionally, we have a new Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD) detector attached to the EVO60, which analyzes crystal structure.

TEM is a microscopy technique in which a beam of electrons is transmitted through an ultra-thin specimen, interacting with the specimen as it passes through. This technology can be used to image cells, geology samples, and other thin sectioned specimens.

The CLSM is an instrument used to image small, transparent and fluorescent specimens. Its strength lies in its ability to obtain clear optical sections of such specimens without the need for mechanical sectioning. The 2-D optical sections can be reconstructed into a 3-D object for final analysis. In addition, the CLSM is capable of imaging small opaque objects using a reflected light signal. Such imaging can provide researchers with valuable quantitative volume and surface measurements that would otherwise be difficult to obtain.

The newest addition to the MIF is a CT Scanner. Through the capturing of thousands of sequential x-ray images (radiograms) across a 360° rotation of a sample, the CT scanner is able to supply enough information to create a digital representation of the scanned sample's x-ray absorbative material. 3D representations of the physical object can then be investigated and digitally dissected through the use of volume rendering software. The nature of these non-destructive methods has enabled the investigation of internal features of priceless museum collections due its ability to coincide with important conservation principles which was not possible before due to the deconstructive nature of other investigative methods.

The MIF also contains a computer and printing lab. The computer lab consists of both Mac and PC workstations capable of image processing and 3-D reconstruction. Also within the computer lab are several graphic output devices, including high-quality laser jet printers and a large-format poster printer. The MIF staff is trained to assist in the use of all imaging software and graphic output devices.


The MIF is also a member lab of the Non-Clinical Tomography Users Research Network (NoCTURN), whose focus is to improve the Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, Reuse, and Open Science nature of tomography data. Learn more at www.NoCTURNetwork.org.