April 15, 2015 (Vol. 35, No. 8)
Strong Points: Nice training tools, free application/image downloads
Weak Points: Does not allow quick navigation between images in microscope application
Part of NASA’s Virtual Laboratory Initiative, the Virtual Microscope website and software from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers students and professionals a great introduction to microscopy through tutorial videos, animations, and (of course) a virtual microscope. The virtual microscope is a free, downloadable Java application, with both Windows and Mac installations available (although as it is Java-based, it will also run on Linux). The application comes with three specimens included, though users can choose to download additional specimens for free. Specimens range from mineral samples, to parasites, to circuit components—all imaged with a scanning electron microscope. Training videos include an introduction to the virtual microscope interface, as well as animations illustrating the basics of electron, light, and atomic force microscopy.