Who is the Microscopist?

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I was reflecting recently on the glorious summer of 2016 and the fabulous meetings that we attended. I enjoy talking to people at conferences and in my capacity as the editor of M&A, I was asked the following question, "What makes someone a microscopist?"

The answer is of course up for debate, but in my mind it's someone who “uses a microscope frequently in their work”.  This begs a further question of what counts as frequently? This is closely followed by more questions, “Do they have to use a microscope themselves or could it be done by a student or colleague?” Clearly this is a potential minefield, but it did make me examine who our readers may be and my view of what makes someone a ‘microscopist’.


There are as far as I can see a few markers for what could make someone refer to the self as a "Microscopist". I am aware that some who may be described below would never take on this title, rather preferring to call themselves a microbiologist, chemist, engineer etc. or use their job title, and I appreciate that it is a personal choice. 

1.      You operate a microscope as your job. The easiest and most obvious case for the thousands of highly competent operators of instrumentation all over the world whose job it is to keep a microscope running. Job title may vary from facility manager, technician, experimental officer, scientist, or product specialist, but the key is that you are responsible for the operation and upkeep of the microscope (often more than one) and its use for and by others.

2.      You belong to one of the many microscopy organisations around the world such as the Royal Microscopical Society, Microscopy Society of America or European Microscopy Society. You may be part of a microscopy related group with a particular focus i.e. cryo-microscopy, super-resolution or tomography.

3.      You use a microscope often. This may apply to the person who uses a microscope frequently (on average once a week at least) in order to better understand their work. You value the information that a microscope gives you and rely on the microscope heavily, without which your work would be impossible. Given your frequent use, you are a trained user capable of operating the machine without supervision.

4.      You work for one of the many microscopy companies to design and innovate in some area. This may include fundamental design of optics or electron optics, stages, detectors or some other integral part of the system. You could however, be on the more applied side, perhaps focusing on particular applications or areas in which the microscope might be used

5. You attend and present work at a microscopy conference. Whether participant or vendor, there are numerous conferences annually, with a common theme of microscopy. They may be focused on particular techniques (light, electron or SPM) or on a subject area (failure analysis, microanalysis or something else), but you’re there to talk shop about what you’ve learned and how a microscope helped you to do it.

6. You have published in a journal centred on microscopy techniques such as Journal of Microscopy, Microscopy Research and Technique, Scanning or Ultramicroscopy.

7. Something else. I’m aware that this is not an exhaustive list of who is and who isn’t a microscopist. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some people, so I hope you don’t take offense.

What I do hope is that you might consider writing for Microscopy & Analysis. I’m always looking for great microscopy stories so if you have something you feel your fellow microscopists would like to hear about, then please get in touch editor@microscopy-analysis.com

So would you consider yourself a microscopist? What are your criteria for being a microscopist?

That’s about all from me for now. I hope you enjoyed these musings. Check back for more soon.




Editor, Microscopy and Analysis

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