A Scanning Electron Microscope image of a butterfly wing turned out to be a win-win for a high school student who, in the span of one week was recognized by both the Materials Research Society (MRS) and JEOL USA.
Scanning Electron Microscope image of a Monarch butterfly’s wing segment. December 2018 JEOL Image contest winner and MRS Fall 2018 “Science as Art” 2nd place winner.
Yiheng Chen, known to his friends as “Intel,” attends The Haverford School just outside of Philadelphia. He, his classmates, and his teacher, Dr. Holly Golecki, were at the MRS Fall Meeting & Exhibit in Boston in November 2018 to present their classwork on soft robotics. Behind their table in the exhibit hall, Intel’s SEM image hung on the wall alongside dozens of images submitted by materials scientists. Before the week was over, it was adorned with a second-place ribbon. At the same time, Intel learned of another opportunity and submitted his image just before the deadline for the JEOL December image contest. It took the JEOL applications team, who votes for the winning image each month, by surprise, and because it was an outstanding image, was immediately considered to be the winner for the final contest of the year.
Intel only recently learned to use the JEOL NeoScope, a compact benchtop Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), at The Haverford School, a pre-K - 12 preparatory boys’ school. Prior to Dr. Golecki’s instruction, he’d had no experience using an electron microscope, but the school affords its students access to the technical equipment needed to pursue their engineering interests. After experimenting by imaging insects with the NeoScope, he found that a segment of a butterfly wing, a sample borrowed from a 6th grade science classroom, was his best effort. He applied pseudo-coloring and panoramic stitching with a 4*3 source image array to show an artistic pattern of each elliptical "bud,” measuring approximately 80 micrometers in length. The image is both artistically and technically remarkable.
Intel has been a student at The Haverford School for the past four years. Dr. Golecki’s students use the SEM to look at ordinary objects in a new way at ultrahigh magnifications to discover something new about how they work. One student is even using it to measure particle sizes of different sugars for an independent soft robotics project.
Dr. Golecki noted that Intel did the imaging work specifically for the MRS conference. The team had seen the competition at the prior year's conference in Arizona, and he decided he wanted to enter.
While at the MRS conference, Dr. Golecki’s class also had the opportunity to hear her presentation on the importance of secondary schools in preparing the next generation of materials science innovators. Dr. Golecki notes that schools like Haverford that offer opportunities for students to innovate in the field of engineering and build a foundation of thoughtful problem-solving for real world applications.
“We should show young students that they can create and innovate at any age, not just in their professional careers,” said Golecki. “The boys had an amazing opportunity to not only present alongside practicing scientists in the field, but also see what career paths are possible for them in the industry.”