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Flexible learning in a virtual microscope lab
Date:11/8/2011

Under the microscope lies a specimen of a liver. Deep in concentration, a student is analyzing the structure of the tissue when the university official asks her to finish up the lab is about to close. This is a situation that may be familiar to many students. After all, the examination of specimens is an important course component; to practice and consolidate the theory presented in lectures. Customarily at the beginning of the semester, students are each given a case containing 50 to 100 specimens with which they can work independently. To do so, however, they are dependent on the university infrastructure. There is another disadvantage: "Each specimen is, by nature, unique so each student sees something different under the microscope", says PD Dr. Thomas Wittenberg from the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS in Erlangen.

Researchers at the IIS, the Erlangen University Clinic as well as at the University of Erlangen-Nrnberg have now created an additional facility that is available to students around the clock: a platform for web-based microscopy. So far, the project partners have made digital images of 200 specimens at 40x magnification and have put them into a database. Here, students can look up and research specimens using specific keywords such as body part or diagnostic findings. At the click of a mouse, the image can be viewed with a specific degree of enlargement (5x, 10x, 20x, 40x) or with seamless zooming. Image details which present the relevant tissue changes or other characteristics are interactively labeled.

The crux of this development work is that in order to make even the slightest details easily discernible, the images have to be made available at a very high resolution. This means image files quickly reach sizes of up to 5 GB; with a standard broadband connection, downloading would take forever. So the researchers employ a creative trick: "So that students can work with these huge data effectively, we div
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Contact: Dr.-Ing. Thomas Wittenberg
thomas.wittenberg@iis.fraunhofer.de
49-913-177-67330
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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