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International insights for Malaghan microscopy expert

27 May 2019

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. For pictures of the microscopic world, those thousand words are invaluable for the scientific community trying to tease apart the complex nature of cells and biology from them. 

For Malaghan Institute microscopy expert and staff scientist Alfonso Schmidt, this adage rings especially true in the world of immunology, with each microscopic image offering a unique and crucial insight into how our immune cells interact with other tissues in the body.

Recently, Alfonso spent time in Europe, visiting some of the most advanced imaging centres in the world to attend conferences and training sessions. The knowledge and insight he gained from this experience will contribute to the quality of information gained by microscopy technology at the Malaghan Institute, which play a vital role in driving forward our various research programmes.

During your trip, where did you visit?

My time in Europe covered three separate events across two different imaging centres. First, I attended a course in the basics of fluorescent microscopy at the Van Leeuwenhoek Centre for Advanced Microscopy (LCAM) at the University of Amsterdam. Afterwards, I visited the Belval campus at the University of Luxembourg where I attended a training session in bioimaging analysis which was organised by the Network of European Bioimaging Analysts (NEUBIAS). While in Luxembourg, I also attended a conference hosted by NEUBIAS where I presented a poster titled: "Novel imaging analysis toolset to better understand atopic dermatitis based on histo and cyto-imaging."

What were your objectives in attending these conferences and training sessions?

I focus on two main things when participating in overseas experiences. Firstly, it's about learning of new developments in our field – specifically new techniques, technology and scientific approaches to get more accurate and efficient results.

Secondly, travelling is a good opportunity to create networks with other scientists and institutes that can help us develop new techniques and establish future collaborations.

What were some of your personal highlights during the trip?

As an imaging specialist, the opportunity to receive formal training from a leading microscopy facility such as LCAM was incredibly valuable. From the NEUBIAS experiences, I learned how to make our own bioimaging analyses more unbiased, reliable, accurate and reproducible.

It was also great to see the collaborative spirit of the community working on solving imaging analysis problems together. The image analysis workshop was also a great opportunity to get in touch with top researchers in the field and learn new and innovative pathways for image analysis.

How does better imaging technology help improve the quality of science at the Malaghan Institute?

Being able to extract reliable, high-quality data through an automated process using techniques learned at these training courses, adds an extra layer of robustness to each image we capture. We plan to apply what has been learned to our own imaging platforms, implementing a new online platform coupled with machine learning, automating most of our image analyses. By integrating these platforms it will be possible to synchronise several different softwares to work on one single analysis pipeline.