A scanning electron machine sits beneath Hope the blue whale in the Museum’s Hintze Hall
CREDIT Alex Ball, Natural History Museum

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London school one of first in UK to use electron microscopes thanks to Hitachi loan

The Museum has helped facilitate the loan of a state-of-the-art Scanning Electon Microscope (SEM) to a London school

Students at University Academy of Engineering (UAE) South Bank in London have become one of the first schools in the country to benefit from a new loan scheme run by Hitachi High-Tech America. The loans enable schools to have access to cutting-edge technology used by world class scientists, including scanning electron microscopes (SEMs). Scanning electron microscopes put a focused electron beam over a surface to create an image.  They enable electrons to deliver a better resolution that standard microscopes which use light.

UK schools can apply to loan a scanning electron microscope online via Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS). The deadline for project proposals to loan a scanning electron microscope is 21 June 2021. The loans are coordinated by the Royal Microscopical Society (RMS) and Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS), supported by Oxford Instruments. The Royal Microscopical Society works to inspire the next generation of electron microscopists, to give kids a hands-on experience, using state-of-the-art laboratory equipment.

The UAE South Bank loan was secured thanks to the support of Dr Alex Ball, Head of Imaging and Analysis at the Natural History Museum. Dr Ball oversees the Natural History Museum’s world-class imaging and analytical laboratories used by over 300 staff, visiting scientists and post-graduate students to understand the Museum’s world-leading collection of over 80 million objects and contribute to our understanding of the natural world.

Dr Ball said, “I’m a lifelong microscopist and once I started using scanning electron microscopes as a PhD student, I was hooked and knew that it was all I wanted to do.”

“I’ve demonstrated scanning electron microscopes to thousands of people. The reaction is always the same, astonishment at what the scanning electron microscopes can reveal about the hidden beauty in relatively mundane objects, so I’ve long wanted to be involved in a programme that can bring that sense of wonder to more people. Hitachi High-Tech’s programme provides that opportunity.”

Jon Searle, the Head of Science at UAE South Bank said, “Our science club has exploded in numbers since we got access to the microscope. I’m enjoying the gasps of delight when you zoom in on pretty much anything. The smile on an eleven-year-old’s face when you tell them that they are one of the best scanning electron microscopes operators for their age in the world is an excellent thing.

“Ultimately our students feel like scientists because they have access to an incredibly advanced piece of technology. I hope this microscope encourages them to study science and go on to successful and rewarding careers in science.”

Dan Cundy, executive principal of South Bank Academies, said, “Hitachi’s loan of this world-leading technology has widened opportunities for our students, inspiring them and helping to develop their employability and professional skills.”

Schools can access the programme by submitting a project proposal to the Institute for Research in Schools. More information can be found here.


Notes to editors

Natural History Museum Media and PR team
Tel: +44799690151
Email: press@nhm.ac.uk  

The Natural History Museum is both a world-leading science research centre and the most-visited natural history museum in Europe. With a vision of a future in which both people and the planet thrive, it is uniquely positioned to be a powerful champion for balancing humanity’s needs with those of the natural world.

It is custodian of one of the world’s most important scientific collections comprising over 80 million specimens. The scale of this collection enables researchers from all over the world to document how species have and continue to respond to environmental changes - which is vital in helping predict what might happen in the future and informing future policies and plans to help the planet.

The Museum’s 300 scientists continue to represent one of the largest groups in the world studying and enabling research into every aspect of the natural world. Their science is contributing critical data to help the global fight to save the future of the planet from the major threats of climate change and biodiversity loss through to finding solutions such as the sustainable extraction of natural resources.

The Museum uses its enormous global reach and influence to meet its mission to create advocates for the planet - to inform, inspire and empower everyone to make a difference for nature. We welcome over five million visitors each year; our digital output reaches hundreds of thousands of people in over 200 countries each month and our touring exhibitions have been seen by around 30 million people in the last 10 years.