Tiny World for Little Humans:Teaching Quantitative Microscopy to Underserved Youth

Violet Kimble, PhD Graduate Student, Yale University
Alumnus of MBL Course Summer Program in Neuroscience, Excellence and Success (SPINES)

Jyot Antani, PhD Postdoctoral Associate, Yale University
Alumnus of MBL Course Optical Microscopy & Imaging in the Biomedical Sciences (OMIBS)


As minority scientists at Yale, we are committed to building a strong and welcoming community for underrepresented minority students in STEM at Yale. Our ROCS project encompassed an outreach target audience of low-income, minority students of the New Haven and Fair Haven middle school communities. In partnership with OpenLabs, the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics, and Native Americans in Science Chapter at Yale (YSACNAS), and the local communities, we exposed local students to quantitative microscopy through the use of FoldScopes, paper microscopes.

alumni rocs workshop photos

Goals and objectives:

The project aimed to reach out to low-income, minority students in the New Haven and Fair Haven communities to expose them to neuroscience, microscopy, and quantitative analyses. This was achieved through interactive events at a Fair Haven School, the New Haven Public library, and Yale University campus, where students learned about microscopy through FoldScopes (paper microscopes) and used them to visualize various commercial fixed samples. They also learned how to calculate the size of biological particles. The project also provided space for volunteers to share their journey in science, inspiring the students to start thinking about and asking questions regarding how they can also become a scientist. By doing so, the project fostered a sense of excitement and stimulated the students' interest in pursuing careers in STEM.

Overall, the ROCS project was a significant effort to provide underrepresented minority students in STEM with the opportunity to engage with and learn about quantitative biology research in a supportive and inclusive environment. By doing so, the project hopes to encourage and inspire these students to pursue careers in STEM and become future leaders in the field.

Major activities:

The project was carried out in three major sections:

  1. March 11: A 1-hour event at Fair Haven School as part of “Saturday Success Academy” program by Connecticut school board
  2. March 17: An 1 and a half event at the New Haven Public Library
  3. April 22: A demonstration table with foldscopes at “Science Cafe”, a program by OpenScience at Yale
alumni rocs workshop photos

Significant results and outcomes:

Each student was able to use their foldscopes independently and successfully to capture images of both the pre-made slides we provided and objects of their choosing. Our goal was to cultivate a sense of ownership and confidence in their scientific abilities, while also allowing them to keep their foldscopes. The preassembled FoldScopes were easy to operate and utilized pre-made slides. Our project is versatile and can be tailored to different age groups, providing an engaging and memorable platform for learning about neuroscience, microscopy, and quantitative analyses.

Impact (description of the impacted community, demographics, and numbers of those impacted)

  1. In the first event, 20 middle school students were taught to use the foldscope. The Fair Haven school caters to students from the underserved communities in New Haven, CT. The students left with their own assembled foldscopes so that they could use them later to satisfy their scientific and microscopic curiosity.
  2. 15 students from the New Haven Public schools, ranging in age from 12 to 14 and representing a diverse range of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, were taught a brief presentation on microscopy and the brain at the event hosted by the New Haven Public Library. The students were shown pre-made slides and were taught how to use the foldscope alongside lab microscopes, giving them a hands-on learning experience that will benefit them in their science education.
  3. Two hundred students from across schools in Connecticut were invited to participate in this event. Over 25 students stopped by the Foldscope demonstration table to look at various samples and learn about microscopy.