Showcasing inspiring projects from next-generation imaging scientists

Four young scientists recently spent the summer months with the Imaging Centre’s La Trobe University node. Below is a short summary of their projects and an outline of what they learned.

Caitlin Allen (XFEL): Caitlin’s project involved Lipidic Cubic Phase (LCP) crystallisation. LCP is a key component for some serial crystallography experiments in which protein crystals are delivered to an X-ray beam (either synchrotron or XFEL) and encased within a ‘toothpaste’-like media.

Caitlin mixed a number of different fatty acids with monoolein and sought to determine whether the cubic phase was retained within these mixtures. She was able to set up a number of different conditions and visualise the lipid phases using polarised light. 

Elizabeth Iles (Optics): Elizabeth graduated from the University of Tasmania and joined the optics group to do a six-week summer project in order to develop new approaches to data handling, processing and background subtraction. The task of scanning large areas at high-resolution – for example, lung tissue sections – generates huge quantities of data. Elizabeth worked on implementing methods for simultaneously collecting, processing and storing data that will allow scientists to image whole tissue sections at high spatial resolution.

Susannah Holmes (XFEL and Nanofabrication): During her summer project, Susannah developed methods for imaging cell stresses using a combination of coherent imaging and plasmonics. She developed new protocols for attaching cells to nanofabricated surfaces. In this proof-of-principle study, she applied yeast cells (Saccharomyces Cerevisiae) to the substrates, varying the solutions’ ionic strength and pH in order to obtain optimal coverage.

This approach will eventually be developed to visualise the biomechanics of a wide range of phenomena, including cell death and the actions of drugs in cells and tissues.

Richard Garrett (Nanofabrication): Richard worked on the development of new devices for droplet formation, focusing on rapid prototyped polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) microfluidics devices. The T-Junction devices used to channel immiscible fluids were able to produce different interactions depending on the pressure/flow rate ratios between the channels. These devices are being developed with the aim of sample delivery and the placement of single particles for applications at the XFEL, synchrotron and cryo-TEM.