Student in the lab week 2 

We were back in the lab this week but on a different microscope – a beautiful Leica. My only previous experience with the brand had been staring in the cabinet at their beautiful cameras whose price made you cringe slightly. This little red logo made sure to tell me I was working with some high quality lenses, it was a little intimidating I have to admit.

The optics felt different this time and they were, different lens colours could be put on to give this underwater world a different tinge. We placed the dish on the microscope plate and the image came up on a computer screen. The embryo this week was much smaller than the previous two I had worked with, it bobbed about like a rubber duck in a bath or a seat on a carousel.

Today was very much a directed session with Fabiana taking the ropes and leading me through the dissection. It was important to be able to make the little clarifications – that’s the notochord right? “no that doesn’t exist” or “you can’t see the trigeminal in this view but I’ll get it in view for you now”

I realised just how much this imaging was a light-game, and instead of thinking that I’m seeing all of the structures that exist, I need to realise that I am only as good as the illumination of the body, and that most of the time I am not actually seeing structures, but the shadows that they cast.

My main question of today was ‘where are the nerves? I want to see these nerves’ and it surprised me (although looking back on it now my assumption seemed irrational) that there was nothing distinctive about the nerve tissue.

I think because nerves seem like the holy grail of all tissue, for some reason I assumed they would look different to other more mundane structures. It’s like I expected them to be shiny or sparkly or something!

The hierarchies we place on different tissue is interesting, I think nervous tissue is more precious than muscle and muscle more interesting than bone, but does everyone think that?

I have a feeling I’m going to become a bit of an ectodermal snob throughout this project (Fabiana openly acknowledged she is). We can both tolerate a little mesoderm, endodermal tissue on the other hand we can’t stand!