beginners guid to microscope

The Beginner’s Guide to Microscopy

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(update 3/06/2020)

Cells are building blocks for all the living organisms, but they are small, size range from 4 to 100 micrometer (10^-6 meter). We are not able to see it by our naked eyes; however, through the microscope, we can amplify the power to see these tiny cells. There are also many tiny creatures that we don’t see with our naked eyes, such as Plankton and Bacteria.

I worked as a biologist and use microscopes to study the cells I am interested in. I was often amazed by the beauty of the tiny world that we were not able to see with our naked eyes. To see them, it does not require a big effort. My passion is to share many small lessons that you can do and get material from your daily life to enjoy seeing the tiny world.

Below is a size scale of biological objects I made and what you can see using different types of microscopy and approach.


How to get started with Microscope?

  1. Turn the nosepiece so that the lowest power objective lens (e.g., 4x) is clicked into position.
  2. Before placing your slide, move the stage to the lowest point so the lens doesn’t hit your slide.
  3. Place the microscope slide on the stage and fasten it with the stage clips.
  4. Look at the objective lens and turn the coarse focus, so the stage moves upward. Be careful not to let the objective touch the coverslip.
  5. Look through the eyepiece and move the focus knob until the image comes into focus.
  6. Move the microscope slide around until the sample is in the center of the field of view.
  7. Use the fine focus to place the sample into focus and adjust the light intensity for the clearest image.
  8. When you have a clear image of your sample with the lowest power objective, you can change to the next (higher magnification) objective lenses.
  9. When finished, lower the stage, click the low power lens into position and remove the slide.
microscope parts

Tips for Success in using Microscope

  1. Do not touch the glass part of the lenses with your fingers. Use only special lens paper to clean the lenses.
  2. Your microscope slide should be prepared with a coverslip over the sample to protect the objective lenses if they need to touch the slide.
  3. Clean the slides gently with a piece of lens cleaning paper to remove dust or fingerprints.­­
  4. Always keep your microscope covered when not in use.
  5. Always carry a microscope with both hands. Grasp the arm with one hand and place the other hand under the base for support.

Common Questions/FAQ About Microscopy

What do I need to get started?

You need prepared microscope slides to explore. There are lots of options available at Amazon, but these don’t come with a clear description of each anatomy structure. You often don’t know what you are looking at except this one. This 25 prepared slide set provides the most comprehensive collection covered four major fields of biology: (1) Algae and fungi; (2) Plant kingdom; (3) Animal kingdom; (4) Human body. It also comes with a colorful guidebook, showing the actual images guiding you to learn biology at the cellular level, explaining what you expect to see in the slide, telling you the story behind the scientific discovery, and activities and questions for your to brainstorm.

What is the best accessory kit for making microscope slides?

If you want to make your own slide, you will need blank slides (of course), coverslips, tweezers, dissecting needles, pipets, absorbent pads, Petri dishes, gloves, lens papers, collection tubes, cotton-tipped applicators (normal and sterile package), biology stains (eg, methylene blue and Eosin Y), tools (microtome for thin section). Woo, a lot of items. Don’t worry to buy them one by one. This accessory kit contains stuff all I mentioned above.

How to use coverslip to mount a slide?

Check out this lesson I wrote about how to mount a bubble-free slide.

How to increase the resolution and increase the image clarity?

Make sure you clean your slide and get the right focus plane. In addition, when you are using high magnification (>100x), the microscope immersion oil will help. Check out this article I wrote about how to use microscope immersion oil. The immersion oil can be found on Amazon.

The Last Thing You Need to Know about Microscopy

Using the microscope and accessory to make slides, you will be amazed by the beauty of the tiny world, so delicate and so much fun! What is your first image of the tiny world? Please share it with us below!

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