A Microscope made of Paper

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A Microscope made of Paper

Students look into the future with handmade foldscope

By Mia Drake

 

Have you ever made shapes out of paper or folded an origami swan? What if it was possible to create a microscope made out of paper? That’s where the foldscope comes in.

 

This week, students in teacher Leticia Cortez’s medical microbiology class got a chance to work along side Manu Prakash, a successful assistant bioengineer professor at Stanford University and inventor of the foldscope. The idea came about when Cortez ran across a TED talks video featuring Prakash and his work.

 

Cortez was amazed by Prakash’s fifty-cent microscope, which is created by folding paper like origami. This project can have an important impact on the science community because it will help make diagnosis more accessible, especially for people living in areas that do not have access to health care. This microscope can help read different illnesses/infections that threaten people in the developing world.

 

To practice with the foldscopes, Cortez had her medical microbiology class observe hair samples, leaves and petals from flowers on Oct. 28. Students’ goal was to find bacteria within the items.

 

“Today we are analyzing leaf petals, and trying to detect any bacteria that can be harmful,” senior Andre Perez said. “We’re using the microscopes my teacher (Leticia Cortez) received, to have a inside look on cells.”

 

On Halloween, the official lab began. Students were gram staining bacteria, a technique that distinguishes two large groups of bacteria, or the negative from positive grams.

 

“We have been learning and performing online labs about gram staining,” senior Kimberly Rodriguez said. “Just to go through the process of how to test subjects, and look at them under the microscope.”

 

The actual testing began on Tuesday. The students used the folscopes to analyze their bacterial samples, and identified the bacteria based on different characteristics.

 

“This is an amazing opportunity because Dr. Prakash is not only working for the well being of the global community, but is also contributing to education by allowing our students to work with the foldscopes,” said medical microbiology teacher Leticia Cortez.

 

The knowledge scientists can gain from this invention can help individuals with limited access to microscopes gain knowledge and help prevent disease or outbreaks in the future.

 

“It’s definitely a great opportunity,” senior Ashley Camarena Chavez said. “It’s something new, and innovative. It opened my eyes to wanting to explore more on the topic.”