Rights: University of Waikato. All Rights Reserved. Published 29 February 2012 Download

Allan Mitchell (Microscopy Otago) discusses some things to consider when interpreting what you can see using the microscope (particularly the electron microscope). Allan points out that it’s important to know your sample well, so that you understand what you’re viewing. It’s also important to be as objective as possible and avoid any bias in which areas of the sample you concentrate on.

Jargon alert: In this clip, Allan talks about the ‘ultrastructural level’. This is the level of detail that can only be seen using an electron microscope.


Some of the important things to think about when you’re interpreting data from the microscope is do you understand your sample well enough to be able to interpret what you’re seeing? There’s just a lot of information, in fact, you could almost say that you’re going to be overwhelmed by information when you get to the ultrastructural level, and unless you really know your sample well, then this information could actually be misleading.

Do you have enough experience with the particular technique you’re working to know what has gone on during the preparation of the sample and how it may have altered your sample? You also need to think very carefully about have you introduced bias into the way you’ve collected your sample? You may have tended to look for pretty areas rather than areas that are scientifically relevant.